has turned his
wood carving hobby into a prize-winning skill.
"I started roughly 20 years ago," said Wirtz
, 60, of Wisconsin Rapids.
"And I just happened to be working with a fellow who was an excellent bird carver.
got me started."
With a bit of determination and practice, Wirtz
was able to turn his
carving into a skill.
"It wasn't artistic or anything," said Wirtz
"Just some classes and determination, and the rest is history."
particularly likes to do relief carvings, which are three-dimensional.
also prefers working with more round or realistic figures, such as images of Santa Claus.
"The relief carvings I'm doing now are actually a very ancient style," said Wirtz
"People haven't done it for so long, they think it's new."
Using knives, chisels, hammers and mallets, Wirtz
designs different pieces out of basswood or butternut wood.
"To me it's a hobby," Wirtz
"And it's relaxing.
I'm creating something with my hands, instead of just pushing a button."
Wirtz is president of the Central Wisconsin Wood Carvers Association, made up of members from across northern and central Wisconsin.
not only travels across the state to enter his
carvings in competitions and fairs, but to national and international contests in Nebraska, South Carolina and Iowa.
One of his
pieces, which he
calls the "Good Shepherd," took a blue ribbon at an international competition in Des Moines.
based the carving on a picture that was in his
grandfather's house years ago.
In the last 10 years he's
work in competition at the Central Wisconsin State Fair.
said depending on the subject, some of his
pieces can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months to complete.
, who also teaches wood carving, said practically anyone can learn the skill with some practice.
"It's always a learning experience," Wirtz
Three wood carvings by Greg Wirtz that won blue ribbons are reflected in a fourth - a framed mirror - that also won a blue at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield.
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Three wood carvings by Greg Wirtz
that won blue ribbons are reflected in a fourth - a framed mirror - that also won a blue at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield.(Dan Young/Central Wisconsin Sunday)