Mathews artist develops passion for carving

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Nov 06, 2019 - 02:32 PM

Photo: Artist Tean Fletcher carves Santa Clauses and aged spirits out of bits of wood. Photos by Sherry Hamilton

Artist Tean Fletcher carves Santa Clauses and aged spirits out of bits of wood. Photos by Sherry Hamilton

Photo: Many of Tean Fletcher's carvings are on display at Put-In Creek Carvings on Main Street in Mathews.

Many of Tean Fletcher's carvings are on display at Put-In Creek Carvings on Main Street in Mathews.

Photo: An aged wood spirit.

An aged wood spirit.

Photo: A Santa Claus

A Santa Claus

Photo: Santa Claus ornaments

Santa Claus ornaments

Give Tean Fletcher some little stick of wood, and chances are she’ll turn it into a work of art. Seven years ago the Mathews resident began turning pencils into aged wood spirits and Santa Clauses, and she hasn’t stopped since.

Her work is both mystical and whimsical, appealing to the child in everyone.

A graphic artist by trade, Fletcher said she can’t draw a lick, but give her something three-dimensional and her creative instincts kick in. It all started with Ben Richardson of Put-In Creek Carvings and the late Wade Brooks of Artistic Design Studio.

“Ben gave me a knife, and Wade cut out some practice shapes,” said Fletcher, “and I started fiddling around.”

She would carve on her breaks at work, and one day her daughter, who worked at a bank, gave Fletcher a bunch of pencils to carve for the bank. Then, while up in Richmond buying supplies at a woodcrafts store, Fletcher found out about a carving club and joined. The woman who introduced her to the club, Kathy Overcash, does little bark houses, and she introduced Fletcher to teaching crafts at a Chesterfield senior center and encouraged her to enter her carvings in shows. So, Fletcher began showing her work and teaching others about it. Then Vivian Vail, who used to make carved angels, taught Fletcher how to antique some of her pieces.

“Between those things, I jumped into it with all fours,” she said.  “It really became a passion.”

Fletcher works with woods from all over the country, using cottonwood and basswood bark for a lot of her pieces. Some woods are so pithy, she said, that she can work from a 24-inch piece and end up with one two-inch carving. A particular cottonwood from Texas holds a lot of detail, she said. In addition to slabs of wood and pencils, she carves wooden spools, golf balls, and whatever else strikes her fancy.

Over time, Fletcher has gotten very quick with her work, roughing-out a piece in an hour, then working on the details in about twice that amount of time. She said she doesn’t replicate her designs exactly, but makes sure each of her little men has a different personality.

A second home in Florida has brought a new opportunity to teach at a senior center, she said. She and her husband, now retired, plan to divide their time between Mathews, Florida, and their children’s homes in Maryland and Florida. But wherever she is, she plans to keep carving.

Fletcher is a Colorado native who moved to Virginia 30 years ago “on a pure whim” and ended up finding a husband and moving to Mathews.

Fletcher’s carved pieces are available at Put-In-Creek Carvings in Mathews, also known as “Frenchy’s,” and at Hang Ups in Kilmarnock. They will also be available online soon. Her business name is Backwoods Creations.