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Vic Hood: 2011 Woodcarver of the Year

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image Vic adds details to Yellow Eagle, which won second Best of Group in the realistic bust category at the 2011 International Woodcarvers Congress. Photo by Scott Kriner.

Award-winning carver is dedicated to sharing his talents with others

Vic Hood’s amazing realistic carvings consistently earn Best of Show awards, but it’s Vic’s dedication to sharing his knowledge and passion for carving that earns him the coveted Woodcarving Illustrated Woodcarver of the Year award.

Viewing the highly detailed busts Vic carves today, you’d never guess his carving career was spurred not by a desire to create, but a wish to own a particular carving.

Vic started carving in the early 1990s. “I wanted a cigar-store Indian, but I didn’t know where to buy one, so I decided to make one. I was very unsuccessful,” Vic said with a chuckle. He then decided to carve just the top of a cigar-store Indian—a bust. “I tried several, and they were all unsuccessful.” 

About that time, someone showed Vic a copy of Chip Chats, the newsletter of the National Wood Carving Association. He remembers being impressed that people could create such beautiful things out of wood. 

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The next step in Vic’s carving career was learning about a carving workshop in Tennessee. The classes were full the first year he tried to attend, but the second year, Vic took a class with Larry Rogers. “Larry taught me more in three days than I learned in a year carving by myself,” Vic said. “Larry made a terrible mistake, though. He said, ‘I’ll stay as late as anyone wants to carve.’ At 2:30 a.m., we went to bed, and that was because I felt sorry for him. Larry was patient and taught me a lot.”

After the class, Vic went home and carved seventy-five busts in the next year—more than one bust a week. “That was an amazing number of busts,” Vic admitted. “But I was trying to learn. Some were really bad, but I got better, and that was the whole point.” Then, Vic met the late John Burke, the well-known carver, instructor, and 2009 Woodcarving Illustrated Woodcarver of the Year. John saw something in Vic and wrote words of encouragement to Vic inside a copy of one of John’s book that Vic had purchased. “Later, I found out that John called his wife, Nancy, and told her he thought he found a great potential woodcarver,” Vic said. 

John invited Vic to travel with him teaching classes. Vic helped John teach for about five years, and then John invited Vic to become the assistant at John’s workshop. “John was the biggest influence on my woodcarving,” Vic said. 

John’s influence is evident in Vic’s teaching style. Both men are accomplished carvers, but like John, Vic’s primary interest is teaching. “I consider myself more of a teacher than anything else,” Vic said. He and his assistant, Terry Brasher, teach approximately nine classes a year, most of them in large venues like the International Woodcarvers Congress and the Western and Wildlife Workshop.

Larry Yudis, one of the Congress’ organizers, said Vic’s passion for teaching is the reason he is asked back year after year, even though officials try to mix up the classes offered at the annual Congress. “Vic is very knowledgeable in his main field of expertise, which is working with realistic human subjects,” Larry said. “When trying to convey a certain facial expression in a carving, you will find Vic mimicking that expression himself in order to give the student a visual to go by. You can see him grab a coat and hat in class and pose a certain way in order to get his point across about how a certain area of the carving should look.

WCI56  Folk & Figure Wood Carving  Carving Faces Workbook

“Another thing that amazes me is the fact that he can have eight, ten, or even twelve students in a class, all doing different projects and working at different skill levels. Vic can easily adapt to each situation without missing a beat,” Larry added.

In addition to teaching, Vic continues to create his own projects. He has won the Best of Show award at many woodcarving competitions in the United States. Most recently, Vic’s carving titled Black Lung earned Best of Show at the Dayton (Ohio) Artistry in Wood show and first runner-up Best of Show at the 2011 International Woodcarvers Congress.

“Vic has been a consistent Best of Show winner at Dayton’s Artistry in Wood since 1998,” said Don Worley, one of the show’s organizers. “We can always count on seeing a world-class carving when Vic walks in. His influence on his students is quite evident, as their work continues to become Best of Show contenders as well.”

Vic shrugged a bit as he explained his theory about entering projects in competitions. “First and foremost, I consider myself an instructor,” Vic said. “One of the reasons I participate in competitions is that when I do win awards, it gets students interested in my classes. The students want to take classes with the guy who has been successful. Without those successes, I wouldn’t be as popular.

“Most of the classes I teach are full with a waiting list,” Vic added. “It’s a compliment to me and the way I teach, and maybe a compliment to my woodcarving.”

Anyone who has had the pleasure of viewing Vic’s work in person can attest to its quality. “Vic’s work contains such ‘soul,’” explained Alan Giagnocavo, publisher of Woodcarving Illustrated. “I still remember the bust he carved of Mark Twain—between Twain’s folksy personality and Vic’s carving style, the piece captured the man better than any other statue I’ve ever seen. Not only is Vic Hood a consistent award winner in carving competitions, but his students go on to win awards at competitions. This speaks highly not only of Vic’s woodcarving talents, but his talents for teaching and helping others improve their carving ability. This passion for carving and teaching makes Vic the perfect choice for the 2011 Woodcarving Illustrated Woodcarver of the Year Award.”

Image gallery
The imprint of a life working in the coal mines is captured  in Black Lung. The carving took Best of Show in 2010 at Artistry in Wood. Photo by Jack A. and Carole Williams. Mountain Man, carved in 2002. Photo by Jack A. and Carole Williams. Old Lace won the Best of Show award at the 2008 Artistry in Wood show. Photo by Jack A. and Carole WIlliams. Mark Twain, carved in 2004.
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Comments (16 posted):

bzcarvn on 08/16/2011 13:07:40
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EXCELLENT choice. I was just in my shop putting the finishing details on an Indian bust that I started in a class with Vic at East Berlin, Pa. I took a break and while checking out WCI, before I get back to carving, I was delighted to see your selection of Vic as carver of the year. This May I took my first class with Mr Hood. This type of carving is a little different than I usually do, but I found his class to be very good and I can't wait to take it again next year. He is extremely talented and knowledgeable about the subject matter.
leavyc on 08/18/2011 16:47:35
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So glad to see you recognise Vic. He is such a great carver and all around nice guy. I haven't taken a class from him yet, but he is on my "bucket" list. Vic's carvings are amazing and well worth seeing. Congrats to you Vic!!
feb on 10/19/2011 20:16:02
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Excellent artical and great carver. I wish one of theses great carvers would do a book or DVD on carving turned faces in all directions. I would love to take a class from him if he was in my area. Feb
groozier on 10/20/2011 03:09:09
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I took a weekend class with Vic the 14th,15th and 16th of Oct. in Halls Crossing,Tn. near Knoxville.We carved 1/2 to 3/4 lifesize realistic pieces.We started with big blocks of butternut.It was the largest thing that I've carved so far.He has a wealth of knowledge stored away about carving.Larry Nowell of Knoxville was his assistant and kept everyones tools honed up and gave advice also. If I ever figure out how to download the pictures from my phone I will post the WIP pictures of the class. Keep the chips flying, Lance Brooks aka groozier
Northwest29 on 10/20/2011 14:57:04
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Lance, you lucky dog you! No offence. I'm just super jealous of you. I emailed Vic a couple of weeks back asking if he had any plans of coming out to the west somewhere next year and to my disappointment he said no. :Sad:With the economy being what it is I won't be able to travel far enough to get the pleasure of his wisdom. Oh well, perhaps one day I will. Please do post your photos and descriptions if possible. You should be able to email them to yourself, then upload them from your computer. At least that's what I do, but then I have a phone that's about 4 years old. Ron <><
feb on 10/20/2011 18:50:11
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Thanks Lance I'm also looking forword to thoses pictures. Feb
groozier on 10/24/2011 18:56:32
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Here are the pictures as promised.If this is hijacking of the thread please move to another section. Photo 1 is near the beginning of the carving. Photo 2 is a picture of my grandpa that I'm trying to carve,with the addition of a hard hat and caplight. Photo 3 shows the massive amount of butternut in the blank.It was 12' wide,8" thick and about 12"tall up to the top of the shoulders,with about an 8" square on the top for the head. Photo 4 shows more progress. Photo 5 shows more progress. Keep the chips flying, Lance Brooks aka groozier
groozier on 10/24/2011 19:52:29
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Here are more pictures of the class.After three days of intense gouging noboby in the class completed their piece.Mine is sitting on the dining room table waiting to be taken to the shop and hopefully finished.The wood was cut 6-8 months ago and was still wet when you cut into it.I've got mine covered up with a plastic bag and remove it daily and turn it inside out to remove the moisture. Photos 6-8 shows where the chin was to fat. Photos 9-10 show front and side profile of the WIP.The smile lines have to be taken down some because the face is not 90 degrees at the nose. The main holdup on my progress was building a carving stand kinda like the one Dylan Goodson uses.The paint finally got dry and it's ready for use. Keep the chips flying, Lance Brooks aka groozier
groozier on 10/24/2011 20:18:21
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Here is the final picture post on the class.Vic teaches great and is very knowledgeable about what it takes to make up an award winning carving. The spots you see on these pictures are from the bar oil from the chainsaw. As you can tell from the pics there are still alot of wood to be removed from this piece. Keep the chips flying, Lance Brooks aka groozier
feb on 10/25/2011 08:50:47
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Lance, very nice thanks for posting. I'm sure it will come out fine. post when finished. Feb
Northwest29 on 10/25/2011 17:04:27
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I think you've got a great beginning there and it's bound to come out looking very good. Thanks for posting all the photos. Let us see it when you're finished, please. Ron
bzcarvn on 10/25/2011 17:37:32
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This is the Indian bust I started in Vic's class last May and finished at home. I hope the pics get attached. This puter stuff is harder than carving.
groozier on 10/25/2011 23:53:56
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Great job on the carving.What did you finish it with? Keep the chips flying, Lance Brooks aka groozier
bzcarvn on 10/26/2011 04:53:53
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Finished with a couple a coats of Watco oil natural
feb on 10/26/2011 07:27:44
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Looks like you paid attention in class, great carving.
bzcarvn on 10/26/2011 13:36:08
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It was easy to pay attention in Vic's class. He is a great instructor.
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Bob Duncan Bob Duncan is the Technical Editor of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts and Woodcarving Illustrated. more