carves Santas, animals from scrap
CARROLLTON, Ky. Look around the home of Larry Jones
and everywhere you cast your eyes, you see water fowl, whales, moose,
bears, mountain lions and hundreds of unique Santas with loaded packs.
Jones does not practice taxidermy, but he does carve amazingly life-like
representations of many of the creatures of the wild. After they are
painted by his wife, Ellen, they are mounted on bases and displayed
throughout the house.
"I give some of them away to my sons and other relatives, but my
wife usually wants to keep whatever I do," he said.
Jones can't remember when he first began working with
wood. The 53-year-old native of Carrollton says, "I was always
hacking around with something since I got my first pocket knife when
I was five or so. I used to build stuff out of toothpicks. Then
about 1964 I started doing folk-art stuff."
As a boy, Jones moved around frequently with his family, as his father
was posted at different U.S. Army bases. He remembers his earliest projects
being boats. His twin brother, Lonnie, who did not share his interest
in woodworking, did make a suggestion that Larry took to heart. "I
was building boats and putting furnishings below deck. I made this one
chest for the Captain's quarters š real tiny. It even had drawers that
would open and shut. Then I would put down the deck, and no one could
ever see what was below.
"I didn't care. I knew the stuff was there. But Lonnie asked why
didn't I make the deck so it could lift off." Jones used that suggestion
again when, a few years ago, he built a miniature two-story log house
for his wife.
"Ellen told me she had never had a doll house when she was a girl,
so I decided to surprise her with this," he said, lifting the roof
off the beautifully built house. He gestures to the the top floor, complete
with furniture for every room, curtains, and rugs. Before beginning
a carving of a bird or animal, Jones studies taxidermy models and books
and materials from the local library.
About those Santas, he said, "Ellen was looking at a magazine and
saw a story about a woman who collected carved Santa Clauses. She asked
me if I could make her one, so I did, and it turned out pretty good.
Then she told me that the woman in the article had over 300. This led
to an obsession. Pretty soon I had over 700 Santas that I had carved,
and we had painted, and I was burned out. But I will still do a few
for family and friends."
His newest Santas are carved from soapstone, which does not need to
be painted. This makes Jones happy: "I don't like to paint."
Jones does most of his carving from basswood. "It's soft and easy
to carve," he said. He used to carve using an Old Timer pocket
knife. But in 1992 he ordered a set of Swiss made tools from Woodcrafter's
magazine. Ellen, well known in the Carrollton area for her special occasion
cakes, is the recipient of most of Larry's work. But his two sons have
also adorned their homes with a few pieces.
"They tell me they don't have room, but I make them take one anyway."
Matthew, who trained at Sullivan, is a pastry chef in Louisville at
The Patron restaurant. Patrick, the youngest son, is a mathematician
working toward his master's degree at the University of Louisville.
While his job at Dow Corning takes a good bit of his time, Jones is
also a bricklayer who has plenty of work in the area. When not
busy with his two jobs, he can usually be found in his garage, where
he keeps all of his wood, his tools, and his projects in progress. One
of his finished projects is a prominent feature of the garage. A beautiful
wooden canoe is suspended upside down from the ceiling. "It's made
of western red cedar. Strips are glued together, then I wrapped the
whole thing with fiberglass, put on four coats of epoxy, then four coats
of marine spar varnish."
The finished boat is 17-feet, 6-inches long and weighs 62 pounds. "My
wife and I like to get out on the Little Kentucky when we can. We really
enjoy the canoeing."
Despite his frequent moves as a youngster, Jones, from his colorful
speech to his many skills, is pure Kentucky. Self-effacing and shy about
his work, he has chosen not to participate in large craft shows, such
as the Kentucky Craft Market. However, anyone who might wish to speak
with him about a commission or to talk with his wife about one of her
beautiful cakes may call (502) 732-6827.
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