I was interviewing a wood carver named Fred Cogelow- this has been about 25 years ago. If you Google his name, you can see some of his stuff. Not the normal buffalo-on-a-hill carvings, or native-warrior-carved-from-a-tree-trunk, but …different. Compelling. A way to use the grain of the wood to express the emotions of the face carved- if you saw it you’d know what I mean.
I asked the obvious questions, because I’m a clod. “How much is this one?” I really liked it, but being a poor disk jockey made its acquisition impossible.
Then the next clod-like question: “How long does it take you to carve one of these?” It seemed innocent enough. Fred wasn’t ancient, and there were stacks of stuff in his studio- I mean, who knows? Maybe he could crank out one of these a day.
Fred is kind of a strange sort- hard to know when he’s kidding- “26 years.”
He face was straight. I chuckled, he didn’t. I looked awkward. He then explained himself, something I got the feeling he seldom did:
“I see folks asking me every day, how long things take. When I tell them, they divide it out, and figure how much per hour, then if it’s more than a plumber makes, they think I’m screwing them. They don’t think about the junk I threw away when I was learning to carve, or the mistakes I made, or the fact that nobody else does this kind of thing.”
“So I tell them 26 years. That’s when I first picked up a carving tool, and every cut I’ve taken since has gone into this piece.”
I laughed with appreciation. I’m no artist, but I do have some hard-to-find skills that people are always wanting for free. You probably do too. Who knows if we were paid what we were worth, we could probably swing a Fred Cogelow Original.
That would be nice.