PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

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July 29, 2013

Messer devoted to art of whittling

GROVES — What began as a way for Gene Messer to pass time has turned into a passion to teach others the dying art of whittling.

Through his YouTube Channel Messer has taught countless people around the world how to carve wood and even soap, transforming the items into masterpieces. His 1,576 videos have been viewed many times; the most viewed being on the topics of “whittling a face” and “carving the five minute wizard” which have upwards of 51,000 views.

An injury — which causes numbness and pain in his arm — has left Messer partly disabled and unable to carve wood. Carving soap is easier for him but for now he can no longer carve.

“It’s a dying art. We, as older carvers, want to wish it’s not dying,” Messer said.

The Groves man is featured in the most recent edition of Whittling, which is a special issue of Woodcarving Illustrated magazine dedicated to the art and hobby of woodcarving and design. The issue will be on newsstands now through Sept. 9.

His popular videos which began more than five years ago show viewers step-by-step instructions, something he is proud to pass along.

“I stopped the videos a while back,” he said of the last video posted three months ago. “I thank the Lord for this (videos) now that I’m not able to do them anymore. What I wanted is to leave something behind so this is not a dying art. I don’t know how I ended up with 1,576 videos.”

Standing in his garage in Groves, Messer pointed out a display of some of his work. Rows of hobos and hillbilly’s and other characters, created from bass wood, were lined up as well as a section of his newer work created from soap. The soap ones were coated with an acrylic thus giving the pieces of art a gleam.

Messer began his love of wood carving in the early 1980’s when his then wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and began to undergo treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“I was about to go crazy,” he said. “I saw some carved figures and picked up some books. They didn’t have videos back then,” he said.

After his wife died in 1991 Messer was left with a small son to raise alone; he kept up the hobby. Through the years he noticed that people were fascinated watching him carve wood and around 2007 or 2008 bought a camera and learned to use a computer.

“I did my first video and thought ‘this is it.’ Then I started getting responses and people began wanting to learn how to carve wood,” he said.

Messer uses the Scandinavian flat-plane style of wood carving in which there is very little rounding and tool marks are left on the figure.

“I have got messages from people all over the world; England, Russia, Sweden,” he said.

Messer’s deep faith in God is keeping him strong through his period of disability and nerve damage and although he cannot carve wood anymore he is comforted by the fact the YouTube videos exist to keep the dying at alive.

“Maybe I’ll carve with my left hand one day,” he said with a smile.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

For more information:

flatplanecarver.blogspot.com (Messer’s blog)

YouTube (search Gene Messer)

www.woodcarvingillustrated.com, 1-800-457-9112

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