"I carve every day," said Willis
Bond, "I have carved ever since I quit smoking. I had to have
something to keep my hands busy." That was six years ago and Bond
discovered he had a hidden talent -- the ability to turn an ordinary
piece of wood into a
piece of art.
"When I pick up a piece of wood and start carving, I never know
what it's going to be unless I have a definite goal in mind. If I'm
going to make a cat. . .I know it will be a cat but I don't
know in my mind what it will look like. I never know what the facial
features are going to be; it all comes with my hands."
Bond started out carving small things. His cousin Kenneth brought
him a boot, so his first piece turned out to be a boot. He just went
on from there and people started telling him he had talent
and wanted him to carve things for them. His first opportunity to sell
when he displayed at Carter Caves. During that showing he received
an invitation to display in an art festival
at Morehead College and he sold his first piece there.
After Bond started selling, his most popular item became his totem
pole Santa. He sold a lot of them to stores in Lexington,
Kentucky, and Columbus, Ohio, for awhile. Then the demand became too
great and all he had time to do were the Santas. He wanted to try other
things, so he stopped supplying the stores and now only makes three
or four Santas a year. It takes five to six weeks to make one.
Once Bond got started with his new-found talent he carved faces on
stumps in his yard. He wanted to give something for the public to enjoy,
so he carved wood spirit faces on two stumps in downtown Olive Hill.
These stumps are about three feet high and are a unique addition to
the downtown area. Bond carved one in the downtown section of Olive
Hill without telling his wife,
Bonnie, and waited to see how long it was before she noticed it. "She
never did notice it and a friend told her about it so she drove over
to see it for herself" laughed Bond.
When asked what was the hardest thing to carve Bond answered, "The
hardest thing to carve is a woman's face, noses are very prominent
in carving and it's easier to carve them on a man's
Bond carves a lot of driftwood and lets it dry one year in the woodshed
behind his log house. Most of the driftwood is sycamore or maple wood.
He has a bass wood log 14 feet long drying to make a totem pole some
time in the future. Bass wood is a well known carving wood.
Bond's favorite things to carve are totem poles and Indians. The totem
pole tells a story of the family. The bear represents the family; the
raven means someone is really wise in that clan; the
a good harvest. If it carries a lot of salmon there will be lots of
good food that winter. Bond has carved a smiling Indian because you
very seldom see a smiling Indian in
sculpturing. He has also done a peace pipe.
Bond has given carving demonstrations at Cave Run, Ashland, and Morehead,
Kentucky. He also volunteers a lot of time showing his skill to children
in 4©H camps and Boy Scout Camps. When doing a demonstration,
within an hour he can show the eyes, nose and mouth. "But then," Bond
says, "comes the hard part." But he always lets them see
a finished piece of what he is
When doing his demonstration for 4-H members and Scouts he takes small
parts carved out of walnuts and lets the kids glue them together to
make a walnut owl. He uses a slow glue so the
project will take longer so they can get a sense of accomplishment
from the project.
When starting a new piece, Bond always starts out with a one half
inch chisel and a mallet. Then he uses a V©tool and gorge and
flat carving knife. He finishes the piece with either shoe polish or
a paste of poly©urethane semi-gloss.
Bond was raised around the Olive Hill area but spent six years in
the Army serving one year in Korea and one in Viet Nam. He now works
full time at Ashland Oil. When retirement time comes he will be sculpturing
Bond and his wife, Bonnie, live in a newly built log home they built
themselves and Bond has carried his talent into the house with unique
carving touches throughout. He carved the banisters
on a loft that overlooks the kitchen and living room and plans to carve
the poles on either side of the fireplace when time permits. Bond gives
his wife full credit for the decorating scheme though, which is also
His new found talent has won Bond many awards. He has won sculptor
awards at Carter Caves Art Shows, Jenny Wiley Art Shows, Greenbo Lodge,
art shows in Morehead, and last November at a carving show in Lexington,
A year ago Bond and a few other area friends who like to carve started
a carving club that meets the second Tuesday of every month at the
Ashland Art Gallery and has members from South Point, and West Virginia. "People
have a lot of different styles of carving," said Bond. "We
are hoping to get about 50 members, then we can have competitions among
club members because of so many different styles. It is a tri-state
club and new members are welcome." The name of the club is The
Ashland Area Art Gallery Carving Club.
Bond has an old masthead carved from catalpa wood on display in the
Ashland Art Gallery. He sells his Santas and other pieces at The Chicken
Coop in Grayson, Kentucky and Bond is also available for commissioned
On March 29 at 7:00 PM Bond will be giving a demonstration in Ashland
at Ashland Community College for the Art Club. In June he will be doing
art carving competition at Washington, Kentucky.