Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | January 26, 2012

Woodcarving with Kids, Let’s Do it!

If you were to Google Lake Chelan, I am sure you would see sites pop up representing Chelan’s Chamber of Commerce, its resorts, its vacation rentals and maybe you would catch a glimpse of its growing wine industry.  You might even learn that Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States.  You would have to dig pretty deep to learn that Chelan hosts the energetic Lake Chelan Artist Alliance, a consortium of local artists, or that Chelan has a successful teen center.  I am pleased to be a member of the Artist Alliance along with many other folks.  One such member artist is Therese Bublitz who does amazing things with bottles and who has spent virtually every Friday of the last 10 years being a managing “den mother” of the local teen center.  Therese and those other incredible volunteers and sponsors have created a safe place for teens to hang out on Friday and Saturday evenings, in from cold nights and other challenges found on the outside.  The teen center is a place for these kids to get a meal, have some fun, and be safe.  I think Therese and people like her are saints for what they provide for the area youth.

In early December, Therese sent an appeal to members of the Artist Alliance to come to the teen center and promote or otherwise teach their art.  I agreed to do it and here is my own experience with it:

I had showed an interest and eventually agreed to do a session.  In the meantime, I had a woman tell me that the kids in the teen center could be a rough crowd.  At first, I thought:  “oh boy, what have I gotten myself into.”  Therese assured me that the kids biggest issue was being shy.  Anyway, the big night came a couple of weeks before Christmas and I showed up to teach these kids to whittle a snowman.  I had some “takers” and I even had two adult staff members join in.  These were good kids, eager to learn, fun to talk to and pretty dang good first time whittlers.  I had a good time and I am convinced that all others did as well.  I felt pretty fine leaving the teen center that night.  I felt good about helping out and maybe even planting a seed with these kids that carving was a pretty cool pastime.  Only one young lady cut herself and she did not seem to care.  A cut was no issue to her.  I left being pretty impressed with these young people.

Teen Center Snowman

A few weeks passed and I thought about that teen center experience a few times wondering what I would do for a project if and when I went back and how many “takers” I might get next time.

Long about then, I received a note from Therese that literally brought tears to my eyes.  It seems that Therese had met the mother of one young man that had attended my carving evening.  This mother told Therese that her son had given his snowman carving to his grandparents for Christmas.  The snowman turned out to be deeply meaningful to this young man’s grandfather because he had once done some carving and was so very pleased that his grandson was taking up the craft. It all turned out to be an emotional experience for all concerned…. me included.  I cannot imagine a finer outcome.

I have many, many times thought about how hard it is to interest kids in carving these days.  They all seem to get stuck in front of their electronic games where the only creativity appears to be when to punch a button or pound on a joy stick.  Pardon my criticism but I see no creativity in punching buttons.

We as carvers are pretty lucky in that we don’t need much to whittle with… a knife and a stick.  I would like to suggest to all whittlers and carvers that they look for venues with youth where they can offer some carving sessions and perhaps motivate a young person into the craft.  I will never forget my grandmother and a couple of school teachers for what they did for me.  If we were to be the motivation for just one kid to take up carving, I am convinced we will have had a successful life.

I suspect that most small towns and even big ones have teen centers of their own.  There are Cub and Scout groups, girl’s organizations, and lots of others kid’s groups where we can get involved and promote our craft.  I did find out that schools are not a good idea as most of them have a zero tolerance for knives.  While I understand their issue, I think it is sad as well.

Stay true and keep sharp!

Please visit my web site at .


  1. Mike,
    What a nice story. Therese certainly deserves much credit for how she supported & been so active in working at the Teen Center.

    Thank you so much for volunteering to teach a class. Sounds like you were well rewarded.

    Don Mollet
    Teen Center Board Member

    • Thank you Don. I did very much enjoy it and look forward to another session.

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