Detailed designs in wood spring from the tools of Clarissa woman

Grace Korblick of Clarissa spends countless hours at her workbench bringing wood to life in a variety of designs. She and her husband, Jim, added a craft room onto their home, with a spot for each of them to sit and carve.

Grace Korblick of Clarissa spends countless hours at her workbench bringing wood to life in a variety of designs. She and her husband, Jim, added a craft room onto their home, with a spot for each of them to sit and carve.

By Jennie Zeitler
Staff Writer
jennie.zeitler@ecm-inc.com

It was Jim Korblick who first started carving designs in wood after taking a class in the late 1990s. But one night in about 2001, he asked his wife, Grace, to go along with him to a Parkers Prairie Woodcarvers Club meeting.

“That was my downfall,” she said.

She started working on spirit faces. Soon enough, Grace was picking up projects that Jim had completed and “finished” them herself.

“When I carve something, I’m done,” Jim said. “Then she says, ‘OK, I’ll finish it.’”

“I do a little tweaking,” Grace said. “He starts and I finish.”

Jim has taken classes on carving loons and wildlife. Grace took a class on chip carving from Izo Becic, an artist originally from Bosnia.

“One tool is used for the whole thing,” said Grace. “It’s fun to do — and easy to get carried away. The possibilities are endless; wherever your imagination takes you. It’s all done in circles.”

She also took several classes using a scrolling design technique with acanthus leaves. One project produced a Norwegian mangle board, a tool formerly used for ironing clothing.

Grace carved this chest using an acanthus leaf design which she learned in classes through the Parkers Prairie Woodcarving Club.

Grace carved this chest using an acanthus leaf design which she learned in classes through the Parkers Prairie Woodcarving Club.

Eventually a craft room was added on to their home. The north and west walls are mostly windows.

“I need natural light to carve well,” said Grace. “Jim can carve at night with a lamp.”

The work benches are covered with tools, wood and a few uncompleted projects. Despite all their fancier tools, Grace points out that they never throw toothbrushes away.

A wide variety of projects are displayed throughout their home. An ornately carved chest sits on the hearth. Plates and shelves and clocks and figurines can be seen wherever a person turns.

Three woods are used for the items the Korblicks carve. Basswood can be stained or painted and then varnished. Grace enjoys using butternut, which is just varnished.

“I don’t want to cover up the beauty of the wood,” she said.

The spirit faces that she carves are made with cottonwood bark. Pieces that are too thin for the faces are often just right for Jim to use for carving houses.

“Butternut and basswood are easy to carve,” she said. “Using oak or cherry is like carving a rock.”

Spirit faces, left, require thick bark for Grace to carve. If the bark is too thin, Jim carves houses in it.

Spirit faces, left, require thick bark for Grace to carve. If the bark is too thin, Jim carves houses in it.

Jim enjoys carving turkey calls. He also cuts out wood forms for Grace to use for decorative signs.

Grace grew up in Eagle Bend. Jim was born just down the road from their home.

“I’ve moved four times in my life, and I can see all of them from where I live now,” he said.

Only one of the Korblicks’ six children lives close to them, although they all live in Minnesota. They have nine grandchildren.

Grace has also completed projects involving woodburning and painting.

“What really fascinates me the most and turns out the prettiest are the acanthus designs,” she said.

But her favorite projects are the spirit faces.

“I don’t know how it will turn out until it’s done,” she said. “They say there’s a face in there somewhere — all you have to do is find it.”

The Parkers Prairie Woodcarvers Club now meets in Alexandria monthly from September through April. Classes are given at most meetings, which are usually on weekends.

For more information, call (320) 763-4455.

Grace’s pieces can be seen at www.mnartists.org/grace_korblick or call  Creations by Grace at (320) 756-2653.

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