When Allan Herschell first began producing carrousels in the 1880s, he was fortunate to have a local population of talented carvers to draw his workforce from. Over the decades, advances in technology brought first metal and then fiberglass animals, and the hand-carved horse became a thing of the past. While modern animals undoubtedly offer a number of technological advantages, the beauty and craftsmanship of the hand-carved horses from the golden age of carrousels are unmatched.
Unfortunately, woodcarving is increasingly a lost art in American society. But the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is helping to keep the tradition alive for future generations. Offering both beginner and intermediate/advanced carving classes, the Carrousel Museum has the perfect opportunity for both skilled carvers and those who have never touched a chisel.
A spring carving class series takes place Saturdays, March 2, 9, 16 and 23. The beginner level class meets from 9 a.m. to noon, and is aimed at students who have no carving experience or are self-taught carvers who lack specialized technical training. Participants will work on a different project each week, including carving in the round and relief carving, as well as learning the basics of tool safety, sharpening, material selection and finishing. The cost for the beginner level classes is $90 ($85 for Carrousel Society members), and is open to anyone ages 18 and up. Fee includes instruction, a tool kit to keep, and materials for projects; students bring a pencil to class.
Carvers with a minimum of three years carving experience can sign-up for the intermediate/advanced carving classes, which meet from 1 to 4 p.m. This series covers more advanced carving skills, and participants will work on larger projects over the course of the month. For this spring, participants will carve two projects: a tree spirit face and either an 1812-style eagle or a carrousel shield face. (Students may alternatively work on a carving project of their own choice, to be guided by instructor, but must supply pattern and wood). The cost for the intermediate/advanced classes is $85 ($80 for Carrousel Society members). Fee includes instruction, pattern and wood for group projects. Students must have their own tools, including gouges for relief carving, two 6-inch (or larger) C-clamps, and a pencil.
All classes are taught by Doug Bathke, a trustee at the museum who has been carving for 49 years and teaching for 38.
Reservations and pre-payment are required by Feb. 28; call 716-693-1885 to register. Classes are a series and cannot be taken individually. Fees are non-refundable after the first class. Maximum enrollment is 12 students for the beginner class, 10 students for the intermediate/advanced class.
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is housed in the historic Allan Herschell Company Factory building at 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda. For directions and further information about special events, programs or group tours, visit www.carrouselmuseum.org, call 716-693-1885 or email [email protected].
This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.