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Artist throws a carve ball

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Carpenter’s woodwork nets ‘Best Decorated Booth’

By Joseph P. King II

CARYVILLE—Most people in the area may know A.J. Byers as a carpenter, but at this year’s Louie Bluie Festival his wood-carved sculptures earned him a big win in the arts category.

From horses to bears and mountain man faces, Byers’ carvings showcase Appalachian history through an art almost as native to Campbell County as the wood he uses.

Using mostly material from deadfall and driftwood, Byers said it all begins with selecting the right piece of wood.

“I start with trying to find a decent piece of wood,” he said. “I just start with the rough end and go from there.”

After selecting the wood, Byers sets to work using gauges, chisels, veiners chainsaws, handsaws and other tools to transform a piece of wood into a piece of art.

With most of his wood selection as local as Byers himself, hemlock and cedar are a frequent material, but Byers said he also keeps his options open when the opportunity arises.

“I rarely ever go out and buy wood,” he said. “I have gotten some cottonwood bark that’s not native around here. I actually got lucky today and made contact with a guy who deals with redwood, so maybe that will pan out.”

Byers said he has a passion for working with wood in general and learned the craft from books, magazines, other wood carvers and “a lot of failure.”

“I’ve worked doing building and remodeling my whole life,” Byers said. “I love anything that has to do with wood. I don’t keep up with how long it takes (to complete a piece.) That’s not something I’ve ever kept up with. It’s hard to really say because a lot of times I may work on a piece off-and-on for a week or two.”

Self-described as both a hobby and a passion, Byers said he would like to work with wood carvings more later on down the road.

“It’s something I enjoy and something I’d like to do more of in the future,” he said. “It’s gone really well [at the festival]. They even gave me a ribbon.”