Crafters were busy showing their wares Saturday at the Show-Me Crafters Craft Show on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. First-time vendors Leonard Kuder, of Warsaw, and Jim Saxton, of Independence, both woodcarvers, were attracting many to look at their one-of-a-kind wood spirit houses.
Kuder said Saturday that his friend Saxton taught him how to carve.
“I went off on the bark carving real big, and he’s kind of stayed where he’s at, and done other carvings and stuff,” Kuder said. “I’ve been doing this since 2005.”
He noted that he enjoyed wood carving previously, but after his wife of 41 years died he moved from Independence to their lake house at Warsaw and took up bark carving.
“The kids came up one day and said ‘dad you’re going to have to start selling and get rid of some of this stuff, because, your lake house isn’t big enough with all these big crates sitting around,’” he said. “So, I started doing shows.”
He began showing his work in Warsaw, but Saturday was the first time for Kuder to show and sell his work at the Show-Me Crafters sale inside the Ag Building. Kuder added that both he and Saxton would be back for the fall show in November.
Kuder owns Creative Bark Carving and Saxton owns Moosehead WoodArt. Both men create wood spirit houses, but Saxton also creates wooden walking sticks, canes and figures.
The wood spirit houses resemble castles or “Lord of the Rings”-type structures. Some are two to three feet long and are made to hang on the wall, while others are smaller and can be placed on a table.
“This is the thing I’m pretty well stuck on,” Kuder said of the spirit houses. “Some of them look like they’re built on a mountain. A lighthouse I’m working on now, looks like it’s sitting on top of a mountain, and this one looks like it’s been embedded into the side of a mountain. It’s a creation of my mind, I think.”
Carving one of the spirit houses takes approximately three weeks to create.
“Because you’ll break them otherwise,” Kuder said.
The cost for the hand-carved spirit houses range from $17 to $90, depending on the size.
“I did have some that were even cheaper than that, but I sold a lot of them before we had the show,” Kuder added.
The men use cottonwood to create the pieces, with some of the wood coming as far away as Canada. Some of the cottonwood is obtained from local rural areas, but Kuder also gets wood from a Nebraska corn farmer.
“The further north you get, the thicker the bark on the tree gets,” Saxton added. “So, you can carve more things into it.”
“The farther you get up towards Saskatchewan (Canada) it has a thicker, wider bark,” Kuder said.
Local cottonwood has a brownish-yellow color to it, but in the far north, thicker wood has a white tint.
“That’s because of the temperature that it grows in and the season it grows in,” Kuder noted. “The temperature makes everything grow different in different parts of the world. But it got too expensive, so I got to looking locally.”
Local wood can be found near the Missouri River, he added.
“Along the banks, where the big trees fall over or get pushed over by flood water,” Kuder said. “That’s where most of this is coming from.”
Rich Lawson, of Warrensburg, was perusing the hand-carved “Lord of the Rings” type houses as a possible addition to his shop that will open in Arrow Rock later this year.
Lawson said he would be selling antiques, gifts, Native American items, food and also have an art gallery at the 1858 era Arrow Rock Trading Post.
“I’m always looking for something that’s unique and really different, that you can’t buy in China,” Lawson noted. “I wish I had the patience and talent (of Kuder).”
For more information about the carved wood spirit houses contact Leonard Kuder, of Creative Bark Carving, at 816-536-9998 or Jim Saxton, of Moosehead WoodArt, at 816-796-7003.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.