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A bridge made of wood: Bemidji Woodcarvers Club helps pass on the art to young people

Quinn Knott, left, works with Les Sanders on a shark carving Wednesday during the gathering of the Bemidji Woodcarvers Club at the Senior Activity Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 5
Chloe Knott, right, and her father Mike Knott work at a table with others of the Bemidji Woodcarvers Club on Wednesday at the Senior Activity Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 5
Joza Paulson, 11, carves out the inside of a bark house on Wednesday at the Bemidji Woodcarvers Club meeting at the Senior Activity Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 5
Frank Bera, left, works with Chloe Knott on her Santa Claus ornament at the Bemidji Woodcarvers Club Wednesday at the Senior Activity Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 5
A Santa Claus ornament made by Chloe Knott. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)5 / 5

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji Woodcarvers Club recently shaved some years off its average membership age.

Since spring, the club has added some new members between the ages of 10 to 14 to its weekly gathering held Wednesdays in the basement of the Senior Activity Center.

“It’s kind of a dying art, and we’re trying to get young people involved as time goes on,” said Les Sanders, who works closely with one of the young carvers.

“I started teaching them, then I farmed them out to other people in the club so each kid’s got an individual instructor,” Sanders added about the others.

Three of them come from the same family and another attends with his grandmother. Quinn Knott, the oldest of the Knott siblings who attends, received a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council to work as an apprentice under Sanders.

“The older people are really good teachers,” Quinn said. “They’re very good carvers and they just have a lot of knowledge to share.”

Quinn sat at a table with his 10-year-old brother Caleb on Wednesday and switched between working on a mountain man carving he began in the summer and a shark project he’s more recently started.

“A really realistic sort of fantasy shark with a lot of fins and spikes and stuff,” Quinn said.

While working with Sanders on Wednesday, the two talked about adding leather whiskers to the basswood carving.

“Every week when they leave, they’re super excited and really encouraged,” said Mike Knott, the father of the Knott children. Mike also praised the work of the carvers and they’re ability to work with the young newcomers.

“They’re really gifted teachers so obviously for young children that want to learn to make things with their hands to have people like that in their lives has been incredible,” Mike said.

Chloe Knott, 12, who works with Bob Larson in the carving club, also sat at the well-lit table Wednesday and worked on a Santa Claus ornament. She showed off one that she’s already completed and explained her next steps for working on a new Santa.

A Santa Claus ornament made by Chloe Knott. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

“So what I’m trying to do is, I’m trying to figure out the different dimensions,” she explained.

All four of the young carvers are home-schooled, which gives them the ability to attend each week.

“The home schooling thing really works out because they can put their schedule around it where we can’t get kids out of school,” Sanders said.

The woodcarvers meet between 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at the Senior Activity Center. To attend, call Sanders at (218) 556-3521.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at jgandsey@bemidjipioneer.com. 

(218) 333-9786
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