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ELLENSBURG—The art of woodcarving was on display during the second annual Northwest Carving Academy at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds this past week.

The six-day woodcarving workshop, which ended Friday, brought together carving novices and experts from all over the country and from as far away as Canada.

All activities, workshops and events were set up in the Umtanum Hall at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds. Handcarving workshops were set up on one side of the building, while participants used machinery to carve on the other side.

"We want to keep all the noise on that side of the building," said Gil Drake, owner of Drake Knives in Arlington, which sponsored the workshop.

Drake said the large, diverse turnout was the result of heavy advertising in woodcarving magazines and word of mouth amongst woodcarving enthusiasts.

"A lot of people plan vacations around carving events," Drake said.

Thirteen instructors had workshops at the academy. Each class had about 10 participants.

Carol Tolan of Sacramento, Calif., attended a class that taught participants how to carve playable Native American-style flutes.

"There's more finesse to this," Tolan said. "You have to make sure to carve the holes in exactly the right places. It takes a lot of patience."

"I like the diversity of the opportunities here," said Joe McConnell, workshop instructor and owner of Beaver Lake Woodworks in Sammamish. "Even if you've been carving for a while, there's a new spot to try."

Participants learned or honed their abilities with various types of carving, including chip carving, cottonwood bark carving, floral relief carving and caricature carving.

Laura Till of Olympia attended a workshop for carving round wood shapes using a machine.

"I like nature, and I like wood, so they tie together," Till said.

Many workshops involved replicating a model on display, such as a great horned owl or gnome.

McConnell said many woodcarving students consider carving to be a form of therapy.

"You have to give it your full attention and really get into it, which can help take your mind off of something else," McConnell said. "Plus, you get something tangible out of it, something you can hold and look at."

Gloria Jones of Ellensburg said woodcarving is an activity she can share with her husband.

"We do it together - it's a lot of fun," Jones said.

Other activities

In addition to workshops and seminars on various forms of woodcarving, participants were treated to a free barbecue on Tuesday night, with music provided by Central Washington University's Dixieland band. A raffle was held Thursday night, along with a talent show for participants.

"The plan is to have this here each year and expand upon it every year," said Tom Duke, owner of TD Flutes studio and workshop in Sammamish.

Drake said Umtanum Hall has been reserved for every second week in July until the year 2014, and he hopes to see an even larger turnout next year.

"We're here to promote woodcarving and provide a venue this side of the mountains," Drake said.

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