GREENVILLE – One of Darke County’s best kept secrets is one of the nation’s finest bird carvers; Bradford’s Butch Clark.
Clark has been carving birds for 30 years starting in 1992 and has been teaching woodcarving for the past 15 years. The first class he taught was in Tipp City and Piqua before moving on to Lake Placid, NY; Hickory, NC; Englewood, FL; Converse, IN; Cincinnati, OH and Middletown, OH to name a few. Lake Placid and Englewood, FL turned into seven year runs.
COVID brought teaching to a halt but Clark plans to begin teaching woodcarving again this coming year. His first class is scheduled for Converse, IN in January followed by Cincinnati.
Clark worked 37 years for Corning in Greenville starting in packing in 1965 before getting drafted in 1966. After a two year stint in the US Army, serving in Korea with the Military Police he returned to Corning in 1968.
“I got into drafting because I like to draw, mechanical drawing and then I went from drafting into mechanical engineering to product engineering to account manager and sales engineering,” he said. “That is when I retired in 2002 when Corning closed the factory.”
Clark has competed at the National and International levels of bird carving and is well known throughout the carving world. His work is well documented in woodcarving magazines.
“I competed in the World Championship in Ocean City, MD twice,” Clark said. “I got a second and a third in intermediate class in 2007. I competed in International Congress Show in Iowa four or five times and I got first place and second place. I’ve done pretty well out there with some of these birds.”
“I’ve competed in shows Charlotte, NC where I did really well. The owls got a first place in that competition.”
“I really don’t compete that much anymore,” added Clark. “It was fun winning ribbons but I enjoy teaching classes. I like showing people how the birds are carved.”
Clark’s carvings can be found in England, France, Canada, California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and more.
At one point Clark was carving five to six birds a year but is currently carving two or three a year and states lately he has had too many other things to do. He does take orders with orders usually taking a year to complete.
The process starts with a habitat drawing the takes about two hours followed with at least six hours spent drawing the bird.
“Typically a song bird the size of a Goldfinch, a Sparrow, a Nuthatch or a Chickadee – by the time I’m finished with that bird and that habitat I have about 60 hours in it,” Clark noted. “The larger birds take a long time.”
“The owls took me 250 hours because I had two of those, habitat, a mouse and the base – I had to carve the base,” he continued. “The humming birds took a long time. I carved the flowers out of wood, I make the habitat, the stump and two birds. The humming birds are small but they have separate parts – wings you insert, so they took a long time too.”
Clark’s 30 year woodcarving journey is mostly self-taught following one lesson from a friend and fellow Corning employee.
“I just happened to see a woodcarving at the fair belonged to Tom Trittschuh, a friend of mine that I worked with,” said Clark. “I went into work and asked him how he did that. He told me to get with Jim Barker in Covington and learn how to use the knife and the right wood, which was basswood at the time.”
“I started carving with basswood and then I went from a knife to a Dremel,” Clark added. “After I carved my first bird, Jim told me I’m on my own so I started learning from books and from other carvers at shows, talking to them so I’m pretty much self-taught.”
Clark’s bird carvings are currently on display for public viewing at Shawnee Prairie Preserve & Nature Center, 4267 St. Rt. 502, Greenville, OH.