2022 Whittle Winners

Joe Srholez is presented with the people's choice and artists choice awards at the Whittle the Wood on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at Loudy Simpson Park in Craig.
Eli Pace/Craig Press

After spending four days working with their wooden sculptures, the 2022 Whittle the Wood carvers all walk away leaving unique art that will become a part of our city landscape. 

On June 22, all of the artists started the day with raw wooden logs that were all the same size with their own natural features and characteristics. 

The four days of carving yielded a variety of different pieces, all with different styles and finishing touches. The winners of the carving competition were announced on Saturday evening. 

Joe Srholez took home first place with his piece titled “Big Kahuna,” which received both the judges highest score and the people’s choice award. 

Matt Ounsworth took second place with his “Garden Party” piece featuring a collection of birds and animals. 

Third place went to Bongo Love for his piece, “Lover’s Quarrel,” which shows two eagles fighting over a fish. 

Carvers travel from our region and beyond to be a part of the annual competition. For the artists this is something they plan and look forward to every year, just like the rest of the community does. 

Damon Gorecki, from Utah, said Whittle the Wood is like a family reunion. During the competition a small crowd of family members gathered behind Gorecki’s workstation, watching his craft and enjoying everything the event had to offer. 

Even though the whittlers are in competition, there is a camaraderie between the carvers, as they visit one another’s stations to admire the craftsmanship. 

A collection of five community judges are the ones who critique each piece and award them a score to determine the winners. 

Annie Stelhin has been judging for Whittle the Wood for eleven years. Stehlin didn’t come into the judging role with any experience, she was asked by someone at the city and enjoyed it so much she kept returning. 

“I have learned so much,” Stehlin said. “When I first started I didn’t know what to look for, but now I can see the precision of the cuts and all the details.” 

Stehlin points out that one of the artists, Jim Valentine, used the natural wood grain as the color gradation for a fish in his bench carving. 

The main competition wasn’t the only chance for the artists to show off their skills last weekend. There was also a quick carving contest on Saturday, where artists had one hour with a log and a chainsaw to create a piece from scratch. 

The City of Craig also hosted a silent auction with a variety of smaller pieces from the artists and pieces from the City of Craig collection from prior years.

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