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Friday, November 30, 2012

The unsung heroes in the Carving Shed

The Tribal House renovation is crawling towards completion.  The structure itself looks like a near finished product, with foundation, wall and roof construction wrapping up weeks ago.  Finishing the interior could take a couple more months, and some of the house’s artwork, including the screen, still needs to be restored.  The bear screen, which guards the entrance to the Historical Site, will be restored by Master Carver Steve Brown and a couple of the Tribal House’s unsung heroes.

Susie Kasinger - Greg Knight photo

“Nineteen boards left,” exclaimed carver Susie Kasinger.

That was the good news the crew at the Carving Shed got back in late August, as Project Manager Todd White and the crew only need 25 more Cedar planks to finish the Tribal House roof.  Counting the three lay finished in the corner of the facility, and the planks each member of the carving trio were adzing that day, there was finally a finish line in sight.  

“It’ll take us about a week to finish those last 19,” said carver and Wrangell local Susie Kasinger.  “Some boards can take a little longer, depending on how many knots you find and how the grain is treating you.  It’ll usually take about 8 hours to finish one, but Linda finished 3 ½ the other day.”

The Linda she’s referring to is another homegrown adzer, Linda Churchill.  “I was just cruising that day, picking some really good pieces of wood,” said Churchill, whose father was also a carver.  “Picking the right piece takes a little luck.  Sometimes a good looking piece of wood can take you twice as long, you don’t find out until you get going a little bit.”

Linda reached for her adze, a very traditional tool in every sense, except for the tennis racket grip tape on the handle.  “Susie got us the tape from  I think my fingertips might be permanently square thanks to the adzing.  I’m not sure how bad of shape they’d be in without the tape.”

The trio made adzes of their own under the guidance of Master Carver Wayne Price at the beginning of the project.  Each has picked up a couple other adzes along the way, whether it be a hand-me-down or something they found on eBay.  
Linda Churchill

Kasinger and Churchill, along with Justin Smith of Whitehorse in the Yukon, have had every piece of Cedar pass through their workshop, a temporary carving facility comprising of two shipping containers and an adjoining roof.  While the local ladies say they couldn’t have done it without Smith returning for a second round in the Carving Shed, the real story remains that these two women are fueling a project in positions that historically are rarely filled by females.

“Linda and I aren’t really thinking about that,” said Kasinger.  “We’re just relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the building almost finished.”

Not that they’re excited to be done, but they think it’ll be nice to carve without pressure of a schedule and hopefully carve without the Project Manager watching over their shoulder for a board that takes up to 8 hours to adze.  The two are now getting to show their skills in other areas of the project.  In addition to carving any finishing work, the pair has been re-painting lanterns and are counting down the days until the arrival of Steve Brown, who they will assist in restoring the screen.
Justin Smith

Kasinger and Churchill continue to “man” the shed, while Smith said goodbye to Wrangell until the Re-dedication in May.  If his plans held up, Smith could be finishing off a cross-continent run to Guatemala.

You read that right, running to Guatemala.  He’ll fly to meet his running partners, currently chugging across North America somewhere, then it’s off to Central America to take part in some Aztec/Mayan 2012 celebrations.  And this isn’t Justin’s first cross-continent rodeo.  Before coming to Wrangell last year, he hoofed it from Whitehorse to Panama City for a similar indigenous peoples event.

“It wasn’t so bad,” said Smith of the run.  “I got shin splints once, but that healed up after some rest.  My knee started hurting pretty good at one point, but that just went away.  Got to have good shoes.  It’s all about the shock absorbers.”

For more than 6 months, Smith’s group would crash in guest rooms, on couches, floors, or in tents on the voyage south.  This trip won’t last nearly as long, and Smith says he wouldn’t miss the 2013 Re-dedication for anything.

“This Tribal House, working in the Carving Shed, has been just like its own marathon,” added Smith.  “I am very honored to have been a part of the Shakes Island project.”

The temporary carving facility the trio called home is no more.  It won’t be long before ground is broken on a brand new 4,500 sq. ft. Carving Shed, on the same patch of land they carved on for months, but in the meantime they’ll work from another temporary shed.  Once again it’s two shipping containers and a roof, but this time they have a view as the shed is across the bridge from Shakes Island.  

The girls did have a little bit of a wish list for the new Carving Shed.  Something to battle the heat would be nice, since the temporary facility is built like a greenhouse, letting sunlight in while trapping the heat inside.  Panels were often removed and fans brought in just to get a breeze working.  They would also love a kitchen and bathroom.  They would like to not have to borrow fridge space and a spot to place a coffee pot from the neighbors.  I’d say they’ve earned it.

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