For children, Whittle the Wood carves an imaginative window | CraigDailyPress.com

For children, Whittle the Wood carves an imaginative window

Process of creating a sculpture can fascinate an 8-year-old

Michael Neary

Eli Eppel, 8, examines some Whittle the Wood carvings at Loudy-Simpson Park with his grandmother, Judi Holland.

— Amid the buzzing saws during the early hours of Whittle the Wood, 8-year-old Eli Eppel, from Windsor, thought about what he liked.

"I like the bears," Eli said on Wednesday morning, eyeing a number of carvings. "And I pretty much like all of them."

Eli was at Loudy-Simpson Park with his grandmother, Judi Holland, who saw the sprawling array of woodcarvers and their displays at Whittle the Wood Rendezvous as a chance for some education on the sly. Holland is the early childhood education program director at Colorado Northwestern Community College.

"There's a beginning and there's an end, and the process is really important for the kids," Holland said, noting the way artists' intense concentration transports them between those two points. That concentration, she said, is something that children can absorb.

Holland noted, too, that children who are 8 years old and younger are "concrete thinkers."

"You really have to take them step by step," she said, and then she gestured toward one of the carvings. "Little ones wouldn't understand that this is going to end up like that."

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That, she said, is why watching the process unfold can be revealing — even if it's not something that registers with them right away.

Holland also noted the way the whole process of creating a piece of art, for an adult, resembles the activities children are encouraged to do.

"When you're dealing with little kids, you can give them a coloring book that has the outline and everything, or you can give them a blank page," she said. "A blank page is better because they have the freedom to create whatever they want. Here, these people have freedom because they're starting with a blank slate."

Holland said she's not sure how much Eli, or other children, would make conscious connections between the activities they do as young students and the work they see artists — such as the carvers at Loudy-Simpson Park — doing.

But it could be something children store up and recall later, particularly as they see more and more artists working — and as they work, themselves, on the tiny everyday art projects that in some ways unite them with artists who have spent years mastering their crafts.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.