Museum corner July 2019
Talent and Imagination on display
By Becky Buher, Guest Columnist—Published in Times Mail newspaper July 3, 2019
Museum staff members Glenda Reynolds and Sandra Merrill spoke at the June Speakers Program and shared unique artifacts with the audience.
Some had never been publicly exhibited. Among the items — a fragile black silk parasol, a 19th century contract in which a local 12-year-old boy was to become an indentured servant until he was 21 years old, Sallie Owens Campbell’s 1873 detailed drawing of the south side of the Bedford square, and a vinyl record from the 1948 Limestone Centennial which included a song entitled “The Girl from Oolitic.”
One of the most appealing collections Reynolds and Merrill introduced was Charles Walters’ carved golf balls. They are now on display in the gallery.
Wikipedia describes carving as “the act of using tools to shape something from a material by scraping away portions of that material. The technique can be applied to any material that is solid enough to hold a form even when pieces have been removed from it, and yet soft enough for portions to be scraped away with available tools.”
But who would have thought you could carve a round, dimpled golf ball?
The carver is a Bedford High School graduate and General Motors Bedford retiree who has carved for many years. Times-Mail Newspaper reporter Jeff Routh interviewed him in 2012. “Charles Walters has been carving since 1980 when Gerald Williams of Mitchell showed him one of his carvings. ‘I thought it was cool, and I asked him if he could teach me,’ Walters said, ‘I have been doing it off and on ever since.’” He started carving first with wood and then turned to carving golf balls after finding a book on that subject.
Carving on a round surface is difficult and different from carving on flat surfaces, but carving on the round golf balls came easy for Walters. He often used a picture to work from, sometimes models and sometimes freehand. He said you have to envision what it is going to look like.
He used a magnifier to help in the carving process. “I work for a while, then I’ll go let the dog out and rest my eyes, then I’ll work a little longer, then have lunch. I just have to give my eyes a break every so often.”
Another carving Reynolds and Merrill presented was a recently acquired limestone artifact. Lester Dale Wykoff carved a 1920 era limestone relief sculpture depicting three faces — one is a football player, and the other two are male and female scholars wearing mortarboards.
Sometime in its history, the sculpture was broken and repaired. It is not known if it was broken before it was mounted, or if it was broken on site. Wykoff’s daughter, Diana donated it, and it is a wonderful addition to the museum’s limestone collection.
When locals think of carving, they generally do think of limestone and the gallery has several carvings in the limestone exhibit area.
Charles Morton Dodd’s bookends illustrate the carving process first with a clay model, then a partially carved marble bookend and lastly a completed horsehead bookend. Some of master carver, Frank Arena’s hand tools further illustrate the process.
Creston and Kathleen Dalton East’s 1995 framed limestone flower assemblage is hanging on the wall. There is a hand-carved marble clock E. R. Murphy carved in 1890, a carved limestone cross and angel, August Mack’s depiction of cowboy humorist Will Rogers, Andrew Duncan’s 1917 endless chain and much more. There is a turned limestone balustrade from the former Greystone Hotel and even a carved tombstone.
A digital historical overview titled Bedford, Indiana, Limestone Capital of the World includes images from the industry, local mills, quarries, local architecture, businesses, residences, porches, garages, parks, churches, schools, cemeteries and sculptures.
Let’s not forget the museum’s wood carving collections. In 1941, Charles A. King used a pocketknife, wood rasp and coping saw to carve 100-year-old wood into oxen pulling a log wagon. Leonard Blackwell created a farm wagon and red stagecoach. These artifacts are located in the gallery’s pioneer section.
The museum’s varied carving collections represent the talents and imagination of many local artists. Some were made as part of a profession, and some were produced for the pure joy of creating. All are delightful.
Source: Times-Mail newspaper story, Jeff Routh, April 23, 2012, museum records.