From stump to masterpiece

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Some carvers make bears, and some make eagles, but this year at the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, one carver is making frogs.

When Robert Waits arrived in Craig from his hometown of Lander, Wyo., he noticed a lack of his amphibian friends.

"There's no frogs here. Every town needs frogs," he said.

Waits, who is known as "The Bear Guy" is the carving world, said he has been carving since 1988.

"I started with little flowers and patterns in wood," he said. "My first chain saw carving was in 1995."

Waits' fifth year competing at the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous started with some bad luck. In the lottery that decides which trees the artists will receive, Waits got a rotted-out tree.

"It was coming off in big chunks. Sometimes you just get a bad tree," Waits said. "It looked fine from the outside."

He said once he figured out the tree was rotted, he told the judges and they got him another tree.

When he's carving, Waits doesn't worry too much about messing up. "If I make a mistake, I can morph the piece to work still," he said.

He said carving is an art form he appreciates.

"You have to respect your saw," Waits said. "I've been working and stuck myself in the belly before."

Waits said for most of his carvings, he waits to see the tree before he makes up his mind about what to create. But for his entry in this year's carving contest, Waits knew he was going to do frogs before he even got to town.

"I drew up the idea back in November," he said. "I was getting tired of doing Christmas stuff, and I thought this would be kind of fun."

Thus, "Frogtopia" was born.

Friday's early morning rain had little effect on Waits' carving.

"When these (carvings) get wet the water only soaks into the top 1/8 inch," he said. "Plus it cools things down out here."

The competition at the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous this year is tough, Waits said.

"You have to work hard," he said. "I wouldn't be doing this well if I wasn't competing against these guys."

He added that even though they are competing, he and his fellow carvers are good friends.

"You see the same guys every year. Over time, you get to each other," he said.

Waits said that the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous is the only carving competition he participates in.

"Right when you get here, they put you up in a hotel and give you $150 in spending money," Waits said.

He added that carving in the park gives him a chance to sell other pieces.

"I sold $400 worth yesterday," he said.

Waits said that he really likes that the city puts this on every year.

"It's a great thing for the park," he said. "I'm going to keep coming (every year) they do it."

Dominic Graziano can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or dgraziano@craigdailypress.com

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