Sweet Homeade Alabama: Self-taught artist whittles just for fun
by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star
Dec 07, 2013 | 5736 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ray Lockridge carves intricate details into on of his wood projects at his home in Choccolocco. Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star
Ray Lockridge carves intricate details into on of his wood projects at his home in Choccolocco. Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star
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There’s an unassuming wooden carving of an eagle sitting on one of Ray Lockridge’s worktables.

It’s about a foot-and-a-half tall, with a body and head colored dark auburn and a tan beak and wings. Big, expressive eyes peek out from under a furrowed brow. It’s hard to believe that Lockridge carved most of it with a chainsaw.

“Some people say everything’s got to be carved with a knife,” said Lockridge, standing beside his workbench. “It’s really whatever tool works best for you.”

That’s not to say it’s all power tools. Lockridge, an Anniston-area electrician, has been making wood carvings since 1994, when he whittled a simple wooden duck as a present for his wife. More delicate statues require more delicate tools, like the knives and Dremel tools he uses for the Santa Claus carvings he shared at the Anniston Museum’s Winter Market sale last month.

“I didn’t want to make Santas at first, because everybody makes Santas,” he said. “But then I made one anyway.”

They come in various shapes and sizes. One is squat, standing under an orange canopy. One twice as tall is carved from a cypress knee, wood so soft the tools have to be razor sharp or they’ll simply mash an indentation. The Santas are hand-painted in the traditional red and green hues of Christmas. A few of Santa-face tree ornaments have their hats pulled low over their eyes, with round noses poking out.

Christmas imagery is poured over his work tables, too, where half-finished angel and dove ornaments sit in rows. The shaped dovetails stick out from vaguely bird-shaped blocks with about 5 inches of wingspan. When they’re finished, they’ll be painted and smooth, still, but lifelike.

“I never had a class,” said Lockridge. “I just read a book, practiced, got mad, read the book again and practiced some more.”

He’s devoted to practice and improvement. Lockridge works in his carving throughout the day — 30 or 40 minutes before work, whittling away a lunch hour or sneaking in some time in the late afternoon.

Next April, he’ll start taking classes to try and improve his likeness busts, carvings of the faces of friends and family. His ultimate project, he says, would be making realistic likenesses of his two kids, now both in their teens, the way they looked as little boys.

Until he’s ready to tackle that project, though, Lockridge plans to keep crafting — preparing for a competition in July and making new Santas for the 2014 Winter Market. Where others might try to monetize their art year-round, Lockridge likes to keep it fun most of the time.

“It’s not a business,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a hobby that I hope will see enough return to buy some more tools.”

Benjamin Nunnally is a freelance writer in Jacksonville. Contact him at bnunnallystar@gmail.com.

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Sweet Homeade Alabama: Self-taught artist whittles just for fun by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star

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