Jim Ebbing, 72, best known as Feather in the Wind, has been carving a number of bears in the nearby wooded areas, and the neighbors have been noticing. The first bear sighting was off of Hwy. 27 South heading northeast near the Totem Pole Campground. And, the second and much larger bear was sighted about 3 miles northeast of the Nine Mile Restaurant.
Enjoying the art of wood carving since he was a Boy Scout, Mr. Ebbing has carved Native American statues, totem poles, and most recently, bears.
With sawdust on his shoulders, he walks into the American Legion Post #296 to play cards with fellow members and friends and they would ask, “Where have you been!?”
Feather in the Wind would reply, “In my studio.”
“My studio, you know, is the great outdoors.”
He informed The Waynedale News that he carves anytime of the year-rain or shine. “If it looks like mother earth is to receive rain then I’ll put up a tarp.”
Ebbing, a proud Mohawk, said many people don’t understand the time it takes to prepare for these carvings. “It’s not like you go into a store and bring home this big piece of wood to chisel on,” he said. Not all wood is ready to carve. If the wood is too wet on the inside, it may warp or crack later. It needs to be well preserved first. “To preserve or cure a log, you need to cure it from the inside out,” informed Ebbing. “You have to keep the log off the ground, place straw all around it and wrap it in plastic sheeting to keep the wood moist on the outside. It can take as long as 10 years!”
The time involved in carving depends on the project.
His latest carving was chiseled away in record time, about 3 weeks. It is an 11-foot grizzly bear holding a salmon and weighing over 1500 lbs.
Feather in the Wind began with a huge log from an old elm tree. The elm tree stood 100 feet tall, with the base of the tree about 7 feet in circumference.
“You want wood that is easy to carve, but will still hold detail,” he said.
“I can carve with the log upright or lying down. But if it is lying down I can get a better angle on it and it’s easier to carve.” To reach the top on an upright log Ebbing uses scaffolding.
Feather in the Wind first draws out a rough silhouette. When he carves a bear, Ebbing starts with the head and works his way down. He begins by “blocking out” the piece of wood with a chain saw. Following a vision in his mind, he carves out rough details and then using chisels and gouges, adds detail. To finish he sands the wood smooth. The detailing on the eyes of the latest bear came from an old teddy bear found at a garage sale. If the piece calls for detailed scales, like on the salmon, or other additions, these are then added. They are all carved by hand.
After detailing, he stains and paints the piece using oil colors. This gives it a soft weathered antique look that is hard to duplicate any other way.
To preserve and repel ultraviolet light the finished carving is given a light coat of Sparr varnish. He claims that the only place to find this type of varnish, as well as other good paints and stains, is at Umber’s Ace Hardware, Waynedale. “I apply 4 light coats. Then every couple of years I’ll add another light coat.”
“The first bear I carved, my son Joseph said his face looked more like a ground hog’s. The second bear was skinny. But the third bear was just right!” he chuckled, referring to his most recent carving located southeast of Waynedale off of Hwy 27. “This bear appears to be coming out from between the pines in my neighbor’s backyard.”
What began as a way to pass the time as a Boy Scout, has, over the years, grown into a hobby for Ebbing. Over the last several decades, his hands have created a forest of carvings. When asked how much it would cost to have this type of bear carved, his reply was, “My time is priceless.”