Getting down to business carving wood
by Nancy Ridgeway
PowerPoint and power tools. Both are important instruments for Dr. Larry Cornwell, professor of business administration. While Cornwell has carved his niche as a beloved professor in the classroom, he has found an artistic outlet in wood carvings.
Cornwell, who received the emeritus designation upon his retirement in May, has been creating wood carvings of wildlife for many years. He recently accepted a new challenge. He carved a wall mural, made of cherry and measuring approximately 54 inches square, of an angel holding a child. The mural, titled “Comfort and Peace,” is displayed on the fourth-floor pediatrics intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital, in Peoria’s OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.
He was commissioned to do the work by the Children’s Hospital, which had received a gift from the family of Vanessa Paulsen. “She had been born with serious heart problems and had such small veins they didn’t think she would live. She lived almost five years,” says Cornwell, who did not know Vanessa but was referred to the hospital by another friend who also does carvings. The project presented new challenges for Cornwell, who says, “I had not tried to carve a human before, and I had done nothing that big. I spent last summer on this project.”
Beginning the project
He first looked at clip art of angels, then asked an artist to draw a pattern once a general idea had been approved. Because Cornwell had never carved human features, such as faces and feet, he made clay models first. When he began the actual carving, he started with the angel’s wing since it wasn’t much different from that of birds he had carved in the past.
Once completed, Cornwell entered the angel carving in the Valley Carvers Exposition at Starved Rock State Park, where he took first place in the religious class and also won the Carvers’ Choice Award, an honor given by his peers. Now he is looking forward to completing more wood carvings of humans. “This experience helped build my confidence. Now I’m working on a carving of one of my grandchildren. I’m using a photo from a dance recital. The biggest problem is I have nine grandchildren, so this won’t be a single project.”
A book, a knife, and wood
Cornwell began wood carving in 1989. “I saw carvings at Silver Dollar City and Branson, and they always intrigued me. I bought a book, a knife, and a piece of wood at Silver Dollar City. I started taking lessons from a carver in Washington. Since then, I’ve taken a lot of lessons and bought a lot of tools.”
He began with carving birds, then animals, then became interested in relief carving and stylized carvings. “That’s probably where I’ve been the most successful in competition and selling. I also got involved with the Affiliated Wood Carvers, an international organization that holds a competition in Davenport, Iowa, each year. I served on that board for eight years. I worked with the judges, so I learned a lot of things, but I didn’t do a lot of carving. Getting commissioned to do this piece has prompted me to do some carving again.”
Reflecting on the angel project, he comments, “While working on the carving for three months, I had plenty of time to think about what it represented. I felt that the angel represented the physicians, nurses, and support staff of the Children’s Hospital. The child represents the many children who come to the hospital for help. The clouds represent the family and friends who provide support for the children. I hope the carving will provide all of these people with ‘Comfort and Peace.’”
To view more of Cornwell’s work, visit his Web site at www.rockcreekcarvings.com
Dr. Larry Cornwell took his hobby as a wood carver to a new level when he was commissioned to carve an angel. View a slide show of the project. Go>
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