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Frozen In Time: A Tradition of Wood Carving [VIDEO]

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ST. CLOUD — This week in our “Frozen In Time” series we stopped out to one St. Cloud woman’s woodworking shop for a lesson in sculpting.

Gen Jansen started wood carving in the 1970s as a hobby. Her husband bought her a set of woodworking tools to practice carving. She bought a few books and started studying sculpting patterns.

“I went to the library and got books, and got some woods and taught myself how to carve,” says Jansen.

Jansen quickly realized that wood carving was something that she enjoyed doing. She says it took her about three to four years to hone in on her craft. She started teaching community education classes. It wasn’t easy for a woman at that time to get into the woodworking hobby. She says there was some push-back from a few of her male students. She wrote an article that was published in the Bismark Club Newsletter titled, “I Let My Knife Speak For Me.” It was an article about her struggles with being a female wood carver.

“When I first started teaching carving, sometimes the older guys didn’t think I could do it. So, I just kept my mouth shut and showed them what to do. I gained respect that way,” she says.

Jansen has taught 839 people through community education classes. Most of her students were beginner carvers.

“The easiest way to learn to carve correctly is to take a class because you eliminate a whole lot of mistakes,” says Jansen.

Wood carving is a subtractive process, “when it’s gone it’s gone,” explains Jansen. Once you have a pattern selected you can start to cut it out of a wood blank. Jansen recommends using bass, cotton and linden wood. She attests that they are the softest of the American hard woods.

Jansen has carved out thousands of sculptures for family members, commission work and personal projects. She was inspired to start her own company called Carving By Gen. Since starting up her own company she’s written six books on wood carving.

One of her first major undertakings was a seven-foot tall cross for Cathedral High School’s gymnasium. The cross is five inches thick and remains in the school’s North gym. The cross’ pattern is demonstrated in one of her instructional books.

Jansen says she’s 76 years old and doesn’t think she’ll write anymore woodcarving books but she still has many different pattern ideas.

See More Of Our 'Frozen In Time' Series

Ashli Gerdes, WJON News

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