Carving a new niche — Club lets retirees get away from it all

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For some, it’s a chance to continue a lifelong hobby. For others, it’s a chance to find a new niche.

But for all members of the Hartland Area Carvers Guild, the weekly meetings represent a chance to get away from it all.

“The thing about carving is that it really involves a lot of concentration,” club member Larry Eichler said. “It really takes you away from whatever was on your mind, whatever worries you had.”

The club, which meets every Wednesday at the Hartland Senior Center, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

“A lot of us had been carving anyway,” said Eichler, who began carving when he was 8 years old.

Forming an association, he said, allowed members access to other larger woodworking groups, as well as the opportunity to participate in regional, state and national competitions.

Members have really made their mark in competition — and not just the group’s most experienced carvers, either.

“We’ve had some people who only recently took up woodcarving who have done very well for themselves,” Eichler said.

One of them is Cliff Lindahl, a General Motors Co. retiree who began carving about four years ago.

Lindahl won a medal at the prestigious Metro Carvers show right out of the box.

“I figured it was beginner’s luck,” the lifelong Hartland Township resident said. “I was competing against people who teach carving.”

Follow-up honors at other events proved it wasn’t a fluke, and Lindahl now creates carvings for dealers to sell.

Eichler, a retired schoolteacher, has also developed a commercial sideline as a woodcarver.

“I do a lot of specialty work,” he said.

He spent most of last summer doing custom work for a metro-area cabinet company. Eichler also works on special projects for individuals who seek his talent.

For other members, carving is more hobby than second occupation. One member creates eagle-themed cane heads to give to wounded military veterans. Others create items for friends and family members.

Meetings are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., giving participants plenty of time to work on their carvings, though they can come and go as they please.

“We have up to 28 members at our meetings,” Eichler said. “Most are men, though we have at least one woman.”

Most members are fully retired, with the guild holding a special appeal for those, like Lindahl, with technical and engineering backgrounds.

“It’s a way for them to keep using those skills,” Eichler said.

New members, including experienced carvers as well as outright beginners, are welcome.

Prospective members can stop by during a weekly meeting at the senior center at 9525 E. M-59 in Hartland Township.

They can also call Eichler at 810-240-5475 or send an email to [email protected]