Woodcarvers Riding Goats??

Friday, July 25, 2014

Since April, I've been enjoying every aspect of this blog - from the creative challenge it's been writing about each venue, to limiting my photos to a reasonable number, to exploring  new places.   But the thing I enjoy the most is the wonderful folks I've gotten to meet along the way, all of whom have been so gracious in sharing information with me for this blog.  It happened again today and I would like to share this story with you.

 In my earlier post featuring the Farmers' Museum Empire State Carousel, my caption under this photo stated that I believed one gentlemen was Gerry Holzman, woodcarver and mastermind behind the carousel, but I couldn't remember who the other man was.   Well, after some research which I always do when preparing my blogs, I found Mr. Holzman's website and yesterday I emailed him in hopes he'd find time to write me to solve my mystery.  And guess what.....today I received a wonderful email from Mr. Holzman, not just with my answer, but with a fascinating story to go with it.

 Gerry not only told me the man's name, but went on to include a story about his relationship with this man (taken from Gerry's own blog) and I found it so entertaining, I wanted to share.  Thank you Mr. Holzman for sharing not only your talent, but for sharing this story with my readers!  Here's an excerpt from Mr. Holzman's email:

"I'm the guy with the beard--the other guy is Ellery Barnaby, better known as Barney--he carved the goat with some limited assistance from me.  To fully understand who he is and the nature of our relationship,  I have posted below one of my blog stories about him. He is now 93 years old and still going strong--very strong!
 
During the 23 years that it took to bring the Empire State Carousel to its permanent home at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, NY, we  asked some of the our  nearly  one thousand volunteers to write comments about their experiences. Here is one of them.  (See post of 7/8 for another)

 An old dog who learned some new tricks:
I’ve been carving since I became a boy scout—that’s about seventy years.  But it was almost all small stuff-- birds, Christmas tree ornaments and little animals—though I did do a miniature of a pair of fighting moose once that won first prize in a carving contest.  In fact, that’s how I got involved with Gerry.
He was one of the judges and I guess he must have voted for my moose because he took me aside and asked me if I would like to carve a full-size animal for the carousel. I was reluctant, not because I didn’t want to do it but because I was afraid that my work wouldn’t be good enough, and besides, I had never done anything that big before. When I told him that, he said not to worry.  He thought I could do it and promised to help me. He jokingly said “I think you’re one old dog who I can teach some new tricks to.”  
So I agreed to do it and learn some of those “great” new tricks of his. We picked the goat because we had some excellent pictures of one that had been carved about fifty years earlier by Daniel Muller who was one of the best.  Gerry, who is sometimes a bit of a wise guy as you probably guessed with that “old dog” stuff, liked to tell people that this is going to be our new goat carved by our old goat.   I‘d like to tell him, “Old goat, my ass.”  But I won’t because, otherwise, he’s really OK.
Anyhow, we set to work and he was as good as his word.  I did most of the carving but he  helped me over the tough spots and even did small  sections of the goat body and head to show me the way he thought it should be done,  It all went well until I got to the legs. That’s when the trouble started.
I had just about finished the body and it looked real nice. I had covered that entire goat body with detailed hair carving that the other guys said was very good.  So when I got to the first leg, why I just followed the same style and carved it the same way.  That leg was a lot of work— aside from shaping it and carving the hoof, it took me about two full days just to do the hair. I was so pleased with it that I took it to the workshop to show Gerry.  When he saw the leg he got a strange look on his face—that look that he gets when something isn’t the way he likes it.
“It’s too squarish” he said.  “Too squarish?” I said.  “Yeah, too squarish,” he said.  I had no idea in hell what he meant.  And then he explained.  “The hair is nicely carved but the leg needs to be rounder—it looks too much like a 2x4 with hair. Let me show you.” And with that, he picks up his chisel and starts whacking off big hunks of the carved hair and began reshaping the leg. He kept at it for about five minutes and when he was done, I have to admit, it looked a lot more like a real leg—but without any hair.  Two days work gone to hell.
I went home and went back to work on all four of those legs.   It took a couple of weeks to make them less “squarish.”   But, to tell the truth, when they were finished, they did look damn good.   You can see them for yourself if you ever go up to the carousel. So, in the end, I guess this old goat did learn a few new tricks—and I finally satisfied that old bastard.

Comment by “that old bastard”:  To set the record straight, I am 12 years younger than this delightful and charming old goat—and, what’s more, am much better-looking.)" (directly taken from Mr. Holzman's email)

What a  great story and what an honor it must have been for all those who had a part in bringing this beautiful carousel to the Farmers' Museum.  I think Mr. Barnaby did a splendid job, as did all the other carvers, don't you?  I've included a photo - one I missed earlier - that features some of the famous New Yorkers I spoke about, as well as one of the carved panels.  Had I been known during my visit that I'd want to "feature" the carousel in its own blog, I would have gotten some better photos!  Oh well, you'll just have to visit!

In case you want to read Mr. Holzman's blog with more stories like this one, the link to his website is listed below. 


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