Soldotna man opens shop to pass on skills

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2005

 

  Layton Van Lier, 10, of Soldotna, carves a decorative duck dcoy at Alaska Decoy Co. with a flexible shaft tool. The decoy carving does not involve knives. Van Lier and his father, Tyland, are both learning to carve. Photo submitted by Rick Scott

Layton Van Lier, 10, of Soldotna, carves a decorative duck dcoy at Alaska Decoy Co. with a flexible shaft tool. The decoy carving does not involve knives. Van Lier and his father, Tyland, are both learning to carve.

Photo submitted by Rick Scott

Area artist Rick Scott of Soldotna wants you to carve decoys. Not you, specifically, of course — unless you’re interested. He just wants the carving art form to survive and thrive on the Kenai peninsula.

“I’m not gonna be around forever, and I want to see this continue on,” Scott said. “That’s why we decided we would find a location to be able to teach this — we want to be able to make this a destination point for the area.”

Scott’s interest in teaching the peninsula to carve wood and soapstone grew with some prodding from visitors to his former store on the Kenai Landing. Scott sold sculptures there, but kept but kept hearing the same thing for customers: they wanted to learn how it was done.

Now, Alaska Decoy Co. has a new location at 36380 Murray Lane, just off the Sterling Highway in Soldotna and the focus is on education.

“The gallery is sort of secondary,” Scott says of the items for sale.

What Scott doesn’t want is for potential carvers to be scared about the process — there are no knives involved. To that end, he’s holding a public demonstration to school the public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Scott and several area carvers will be on hand to demonstrate basic wood carving techniques.

The decoys and sculptures are decorative and highly detailed. The artists and students use power tools and study pictures, including details of the bills, to make the finished product as lifelike as possible. The techniques taught in the classes help ensure that realism, too.

“Kind of the big key to making the sculpture look real is maintaining the center line so you don’t have one half of the bird looking pudgy and bulky and the other side smaller,” Scott said.

Carving is a family affair for Scott. His father, Ed, and brother, Michael, have carved wood, ivory and soapstone animals and outdoors scenes professionally for years. Ed took third place at an international carving contest in Maryland last year, and Michael’s soapstone work tops the trophies for the Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s Kenai River Classic contest. Senator Ted Stevens even has one of Michael’s King Salmon carvings.

Rick and Michael both caught the carving bug at the same time, though — in 1985 at a seminar at East High School in Anchorage. For Rick, carving was mostly a hobby until three years ago.

The seed was planted, however, and now others are following their own ambitions with the company’s help.

“I did some playing around, but I’d never done anything like this,” said Tyland Van Lier, a student of Scott’s.

Van Lier said the availability of professional instructors allows him to understand the process and use his own creativity.

“I got books — everybody buys books to learn — but you can’t understand the book until you take the class,” Van Lier said. “Once you take the class, it all makes sense, and you can do some things on your own.”

Michael Romatz, a Kasilof resident who has taught classes in ornithology and bird taxonomy, took the company’s soapstone bear carving class Dec. 3 and was impressed with Scott’s teaching style.

“He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and he’s not even a teacher, per se,” Romatz said. “He doesn’t want to put his style on your style, he wants everybody to have their own style.”

Scott said the one-day soapstone class is a popular introductory course.

“This is a good way for people to see if they’re going to like sculpting because you don’t have to commit to a bunch of weeks,” Scott said.

Romatz, who plans on taking a bird carving course in January, said the finished product was worth the work.

“It’s not easy, but it’s not that hard, either,” he said.



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