The Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation on Historic Main Street Woodworking Suitcase

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Are these toys functional or nonfunctional?

How do these differ from other toys?

Did your parents or grandparents play with toys like this one?

Do you think you could make toys like these? If so, describe how. (See the Wooden Train project.)


Joe Offerman, Santa Carving

Self-taught woodcarver Joe Offerman is a retired speech-language pathologist from western Kentucky. Joe and his wife have a special interest in Santa Claus. Since he started in the 1990s, Joe has carved more than 10,000 Santa Claus figures and ornaments.

Joe uses all types of wood, including recycled pencils, tree bark and driftwood. His work has been exhibited at the Kennedy Center, the White House, and many art and craft galleries across Kentucky.


Why didn't the artist paint all of the wood? Was it intentional to leave some of the bark showing?

Compare this to other Holiday ornaments. How are they different or alike?

Have you ever made an ornament? How and why was yours different from the artist's ornament?


Steve Rice, Shaker box

Self-taught wood artist Steve Rice has been crafting Shaker boxes and carriers since 1994 and began exhibiting and selling them in 1995. He hand-cuts and shapes the fingers, then steams the bands, bending them around a form to be secured with copper tacks. After two days of drying, he fits the forms with tops and bottoms, which are held with wooden pegs. The entire process takes three to five days. Steve makes these boxes during his time off from his job as an electrical engineer.


The United Societies of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, commonly known as Shakers, have practiced their religion, the oldest communal experience in America, for more than 200 years. The Society endured the rise and fall of the popularity of the religion and the changes wrought by a modern world.

The Shakers embodied their spirit in the form of their belief that the world around them could be perfected through their labors, so they dedicated their hearts to God by putting their hands to work. As a result, impressions of them are still available in the techniques they have left behind.

The Shaker faith forbade ornament, so the beauty of Shaker art lies in its functional qualities of simple line and form, not in carving or painting. These characteristics attract present day artists like Steve Rice to create Shake-inspired objects. He and others continue to produce Shaker art, keeping the societies' philosophy of simplicity alive.


How does the process the artist used reflect Shaker values?

What is the obvious Shaker influences in the box's appearance?

What would you put in the box?

Why would a full-time engineer make Shaker boxes?

Do you know anyone who makes art as a hobby or part-time? If so, what, and why?


Rude Osolnik, Vessel

Rudy Osolnik is a master wood turner from Berea, Kentucky. Osolnik is a considered one of the best wood turners in the world. After retiring from Berea College where he headed the industrial arts program and taught for more than forty years, Rude conducted seminars, lectures and demonstrations around the country. At age eighty-two he continues to work from his studio producing lasting works of art which stand the test of time. His lathe-turned work can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and several other prominent private collections including the Vice President's home.


See the enclosed book on Rude Osolnik's life and work.


Is this functional or nonfunctional?

How did the artist make the opening so small? (See book on Osolnik.)

Have you ever seen a lathe? What does it look like and what is it used for? (See book on Osolnik.)

Can you name three types of wood in your region of Kentucky? Are any used to produce furniture or other products locally?

How are handmade wood items different from manufactured items?


Lestel and Ollie Childress, White Oak Basket

The Chilldress are fifth generation basket makers from Hart County. They have been making baskets since they were children and both of their families have a long history of practice in the craft.

After marrying, they continued the family tradition of basketry using materials found from the surrounding woods near their home. They blend several types of wood while weaving, but they are especially known for their white oak baskets. Both hope their nephew and grandchildren will ensure that a seventh generation of Childress basket makers carries on the proud tradition.


Before paper bags, tin cans, and plastic containers, our forebears relied on baskets of all shapes and sizes as utensils essential in daily routines of an agrarian society. A basket's form and construction often reflected its function. Commonly used for gathering, transporting and storing goods, most baskets served as basic containers and were often named for their contents or use: egg basket for gathering eggs, coal basket for hauling coal, berry baskets, pack baskets, clothes baskets,...laundry baskets. (Nash Law, Taylor 1991).

Basketmaking has traditionally been carried on by families through generations of self- taught crafts people. There few isolated individuals who learned to make baskets on their own or from a neighbor, however evidence suggests that the majority of basketmaking is perpetuated through a family network. Basketmaking requires few tools, and was generally viewed as a way to make extra money or barter for goods.

There are three types of white oak baskets (the piece in our suitcase is a small ribbed melon basket): rib, rod and split. The rib basket has a foundation of curved pieces which reinforces the basket structure with graceful curves and a rounded shape. The rod basket is created with long slender rods which have been spilt and shaped from white oak. Rarely is this method used today and this form is nearing extinction because few basketmakers continue the tradition. Lastly, the split basket is constructed of long flat strips of wood known as as splits. The round, square or rectangular split baskets are the simplest of all the white oak baskets.

The above passage uses quotes and information from:

Law Nash, Rachel and Taylor, Cynthia. Appalachian White Oak BASKETMAKING: handing down the basket. The University of Tennessee Press. 1991.


Do you have any baskets in your home?

What are the three types of baskets?

Can you name containers that have replaced baskets? How are these containers made and what materials are used?


Lonnie and Twyla Money, Walking Stick

Lonnie Money lives with his wife, Twyla in Isonville, Kentucky. They operate a tobacco and cattle farm while creating their wood carvings. The memory of Lonnie's great grandfather, a Swiss immigrant wood carver inspired Lonnie to start carving wood.

He began by making walking sticks with animal shapes and progressed to carving three dimensional animal figures. Twyla assists with finishing and carving on the pieces and does most of the painting. The two have been producing wood carvings and art from their Eastern Kentucky farm for nearly a decade.


The walking stick is one of the oldest utilitarian craft objects in human history. It has served as a walking aid, a weapon, a status symbol, and often as a commemorative object. The way artists use the form as a vehicle for self-expression is of great interest to contemporary collectors and curator. The walking stick plays host to unlimited animal and human representations. Some examples are statements of pure geometric design while others receive heavy ornamentation.

If one had to name the most common motif in cane carving it would likely be the snake. Many cultures throughout the world have been intrigued by these reptiles and they are a common symbol in art, literature, religion, and folklore. The staff and snake symbol for the medical profession in the United States is an excellent contemporary example. The linear form of sticks, which easily transforms into a snake, may explain the great number of walking sticks bearing this imagery.


Do you think the first walking stick was discovered or invented?

Why do you think snakes are a popular symbol?

What is a "linear" form?

Where do you think artists find their sticks and what would make a "good" stick?

Have you ever used a walking stick? When and why?


Greg Williams, Box

In 1974, while living near Bear Willow, Kentucky, Greg Williams realized he had a greater affinity for woodworking than for the chemical engineering he had studied in school. Not long afterward, an elderly blues guitar player agreed to sell Greg a set of tools which symbolically helped determine Greg=s fate: He was a woodworker now and there was no turning back.

In the early 1980s, Greg took a course in design that introduced him to Mayan architecture and Art Deco. These designs heavily influence his work and often result in unusual constructions of boxes with several elaborate shapes and designs. Greg currently lives and works outside Burksville, Kentucky with his wife and two children.


Is this functional or non-functional?

What would you store in this box?

How many different types of wood are used in this box?

How was the wood joined together?

What are the patterns in the box? Describe them and suggest similar patterns in other objects.


Doug and Mary Ridley, Bust

The Ridley's piece is a caricature of Emil Janek, an old world carver. The piece is carved from Tupelo Gum, a native wood of the Louisiana bayous. It is finished naturally with an overspray of varnish. Biographical information was unavailable on the artists.


Who does the old man resemble?

Why is the piece varnished instead of painted or stained?

Describe what type of life the man might have lived and support your answer with evidence from the bust.

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