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Carving out time for hobbies: Sculptors at Buckner Villas create art from wood

By Chelsea Quackenbush
Photography by Russ Dilday

Most mornings, three men gather in a modest shack, reminiscent of an Appalachian cabin, nestled on the edge of the Buckner Villas in Austin. They sit and drink coffee as the light of the day floods in through the tiny windows, illuminating their newest creations.

The three men have different backgrounds, different approaches and different ideas but one thing brings them together – a passion for wood carving.

Charlie Boren, Bobby Bone and Bob Reynolds approached Villas staff with the idea to build a shop – or even just a room, according to Bone – so they could have a place to socialize and work on their hobby. They also said their wives were tired of all the noise and mess the carving created.

Boren started woodcarving nearly 40 years ago after seeing some demonstrations at an art show in Austin.

“I looked at it and said, you know, I think I can do that. So I went home, got me a piece of wood, got a couple of gouges (or chisels) and went to work.”

Boren learned woodcarving techniques in the U.S. and Canada, and his sculptures have sold all over the country.
Before he moved to the Villas, he had 30 acres of land at his home in Burleson, Texas. The farm had been in his family for years. Boren built workshops and barns so he could continue his craft and teach other people about it. When he and his wife left, they donated the entire thing to the city of Burleson.

Since moving to Austin, he’s been hard at work to fix up the shop for others to work in. He hasn’t had much time for carving but some of his older masterpieces line the upper shelves.

He’s well-known for his Western pieces, specifically the realistic-looking cowboy boots that sell for hundreds of dollars each, but says he doesn’t always stick to one genre. He’s made everything from cowboy boots to wizards to animals.
Boren doesn’t sell many of his sculptures any more but says he just does it “for the heck of it.”

“Each piece is an original piece,” he said. “You can’t make one and remake it in wood. But that’s what makes it special. Wood is beautiful in itself. You can paint it and carve it and do all kinds of things to give it personality.”

Where Boren didn’t start working with wood well into adulthood, Bobby Bone grew up the son of a carpenter. He often let Bone help out with jobs and once he entered college, Bone decided he would work with wood and majored in industrial education.

From there, he taught shop classes to junior high and high school students but “nothing in carving,” he said.
Bone discovered his passion for woodcarving on a trip to Branson, Mo., shortly before he retired from teaching. He was entranced by the woodworkers there and asked them as many questions as he could.

“They gave me very little advice except to ‘get you a really sharp knife; get you some pattern books and get you a lot of patience. Then sit down and start carving,’” Bone said. And that’s exactly what he did.

Bone makes a lot of birds, partly because his wife loves them, and also because he and his grandson used to spend hours sitting in the back yard, looking at birds and talking about them. He also likes the old Ozark figures, which he discovered in Branson, and he likes cowboys. Bone said he makes whatever comes to his mind.

He doesn’t sell his pieces and doesn’t rush to get them finished. He works on them when he feels like and doesn’t ever want it to become a job, because then “you won’t enjoy it.”

The newest sculptor in the bunch is Bob Reynolds. He picked up the craft about eight years ago but his degree in zoology helps him translate his pieces from idea to reality.

Reynolds grew up in Minnesota – “The land of 10,000 lakes and a lot of pine trees,” he said. “It’s a great place to live when you’re a kid.”

He said his family was always outdoors, whether it was hunting, ice skating or just playing around. He loved to paint using watercolors. He draws on his upbringing and uses nature to inspire his work.

Reynolds took a lesson in carving on a trip to Horseshoe Bay and thought he’d take a whack at it. He also picked up photography as a hobby several yeas ago and looks for every opportunity to show his University of Texas Longhorn pride.

The three men all take different approaches to their carving but they appreciate the opportunity to work alongside each other. They said they’re very thankful that the staff responded to their request for a work and social get-away.

“We just do our thing and see what everyone else is doing that day,” Reynolds said. “It’s a matter of getting together. It’s a social thing, a network.”

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