A 94-Year-Old Artist Delights In Sharing His Craft

Weiser became interested in carvings in his 20s, but it wasn’t until his 70s that opportunity came knocking on wood. While accompanying his wife, a career artist, to an art exhibition, he came across a table with some of the most intricate and interesting sculptures he had ever seen. When Weiser asked how he could get involved himself, he was told, quite literally, “Join the club!” So, he did. From then on, he spent one evening a week with the North Suburban Carvers in Bensenville, Illinois, honing his newfound hobby-turned-passion. He wasn’t exactly sure where this sudden fascination with wood carving had come from, but once he began studying under a master carver from the Philippines, it all clicked.

When he was 20 and serving in the Marines, Weiser had spent nine months at sea on a voyage to China. While onboard, Weiser befriended two passengers who were priests on their way to a monastery. They all became such good friends that they invited him along, taking him deep into the jungles of rural China in their Jeep.

At the entrance to the monastery stood a large, magnificent wooden gate, the likes of which Weiser had seen only in the fantasy-adventure movie King Kong. The entire township was enclosed within its walls. In their society, sequestered by the jungle away from the rest of the world, explained the priests, all the men were taught wood carving. Once Weiser was inside, he saw that the level of wood carving they meant was not the whittling he was used to.

There, he saw an old man in his 70s — “and I thought he was old because I was only 20,” Weiser laughed — in a room that was both the man’s art and his life’s work. “He was carving the wall. This whole, big wall. It [had taken him] his whole life.”

Weiser’s eyes glistened with nostalgia as he watched the wooden wall erect itself plank by plank in his mind’s eye. “His whole life was carving this room with little figures, with horses and people … and I was amazed at this,” Weiser went on. “And there was furniture in the room. There was this big, huge table that sat 30 people, and on all the chairs were [these] carved, little, tiny figures, all over the place,” he explained, his admiration and awe still palpable.

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