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December 14. 2012 11:09PM

Couple brings love of woodcarving to seniors

SALEM - In the skilled hands of Larry and Carol Sinclair, hunks of wood are whittled into tiny masterpieces - grimacing faces of Old World gnomes, sea captains with faces as weathered as an ancient pine and whimsical canines clutching small Christmas stockings.

The Litchfield couple, both self-taught in the art of woodcarving, teach weekly Wednesday workshops at the Ingram Senior Center in Salem.

Both agree that sharing their creative passions has truly been a labor of love. Larry, a native of Marblehead, Mass., began whittling around 60 years ago. His wife, Carol, originally from Beverly, Mass., took to the hobby about 20 years ago at the urging of her spouse.

"He wouldn't stop bugging me about it," said Carol with a laugh as she put finishing touches on a smiling Labrador retriever puppy she'd been working on.

"Animals are what I like to do," the retired insurance worker said, adding that one of her favorite carvings was a portrait of her rescued pet dog, a spaniel and Collie mix she adopted about a year ago.

Seated beside her, Larry, a retired mechanical engineer, added smile lines around the mouth of a backpack-wearing gnome. Gnomes are one of his many specialties.

"Each one kind of ends up with its own personality," he said. "As we get older, we can be a bunch of cut-ups. Guess it keeps us off the streets," he joked, playfully elbowing his student, Bob Gaumond. Gaumond returned the favor by holding up his most recent creation - a bearded male figure that bore a remarkable resemblance to the class instructor.

"I think I'll name him Larry," Gaumond said.

For 2˝ hours each week, the Sinclairs stop by the Salem senior center, where a small yet eager crowd of students await.

Much to Carol's dismay, there haven't been many ladies attending the Salem classes thus far, though she's holding out hope this may eventually change. Before moving to New Hampshire, the couple lived on Cape Cod, Mass., and the classes they taught at area senior centers were well attended by men and women alike.

"I'd say we had about 16 ladies in one of our 44-member classes," Larry said.

During a recent class, five students, all gentlemen, sat around the table, carving a furrowed brow here, a stray whisker there and mixing a rainbow of colors on their paint palettes.

Some have been lifelong artists, while others are just getting started out. Wil Blackey had a certain paint color in mind as he highlighted the clothing on his emerging wooden figure.

"I'm sure I saw that purple paint around here somewhere," he said.

Seated beside him, Frank Koza kept his carving a bit more simple.

"I'm the beginner here," he said, grinning. "But this is a very relaxing hobby. I just sit here, keep quiet and carve away."

An avid golfer, Ken Haynes worked on some golf-ball holders bestowed with Scottish faces with tasseled hats perched atop their heads.

"I made a couple and then got a special request for a female one for one of my lady golfer friends," he said.

"Yes, we have quite a few characters here," Larry Sinclair concluded.

aguilmet@newstote.com



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