Woodcarving in Appalachia is practiced as both a practical skill and an art aesthetic. Prior to the 20th century, wood was the primary raw material used for making things on self-sufficient farms. Tool handles, kitchen utensils, fishing rods and toys were all carved from wood. Many carvers enjoyed embellishing their creations with decorations and they soon realized that they could sell their craft items as works of folk art. Human figures, religious themes and animals are common subjects for Appalachian carvers; snakes, horses, and hound dogs are especially popular. While carving is usually valued for its creations, sometimes it is indulged in purely as an enjoyable way to while away the time; then it is often referred to as “whittlin’.”
Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit digitalheritage.org. You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM.