By Bob Duncan
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 desire 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 also 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.
The next step in Vic’s carving career was learning about a carving workshop in Tenn. 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 75 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 Wood Carvers Congress and the Western and Wildlife Workshop.
Larry Yudis, one of the Congress’s 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. Another thing that amazes me is the fact that he can have eight, 10, or even 12 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.
“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 the 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.”