Carving out a niche at the Cape Fear Fair

“I carved an eagle on top of a 27-foot tree,” he said. “I was standing and carving with a 36-inch chainsaw and, occasionally, they kick. If you fall, you fall, so you have to be careful.”

Fortunately, the majority of Cox’s work is done on solid ground. As one-half of RS Woodcarving – the other half is his wife, Sue – Cox uses chainsaws to transform large logs and tree stumps into animals, shapes and human silhouettes.

The couple are based in Edinburg, Pa., but spend months each year traveling the country, selling their work and demonstrating their sawing prowess at fairs and craft shows. They’ve been a staple at the Cape Fear Fair and Expo for years, where their booth resembles a fairy-tale forest populated by black bears, owls, bearded gnomes and horses, frozen in mid-air with wild, thick manes billowing behind them.

The Coxes began their carving business nine years ago after running a mom-and-pop grocery store for more than 30 years. At first, Rick carved the pieces and Sue provided the finishing touches; things like sanding, painting and adding tiny, detailed marks to make fur or faces more realistic.

But eventually, she began carving her own works, and now they both produce pieces regularly, though their tastes vary.

“I do turtles and frogs and all those little bears,” Sue said. “I like the cute.”

By contrast, Rick prefers the horses. His all-time favorite piece is a 7-foot stallion standing on its hind legs, which he shaped using only a chisel and hammer.

“It’s the only piece I have in the house,” he said.

But the black bears sell the best, so that’s the animal the couple carve most frequently, using smaller chainsaws to cut lines for fur and glossy black marbles for eyes.

The bears reach for beehives, stand on their hind legs and perch on tree stumps, paws crossed, looking mischievous. Some of the pieces are emblazoned with, “WELCOME.”

Others read, “GO AWAY.”

“Anybody can make welcome signs,” Rick said. “So I make go-away signs.”

Pieces range in price from $35 (curvy, carved walking sticks) to $1,200 (a 6-foot, rifle-toting Confederate soldier with piercing blue eyes, rising from a curved, red-and-white base with a tiny cannon embedded on the bottom). The Coxes also will do custom works.

Some of the odder requests include a hot dog on a bun and an ear of corn, though the couple is willing to tackle just about any subject matter.

“It’s fun, it’s a challenge and it’s creative,” Sue said. “This is just a really neat opportunity for us to spend time with each other, to meet new people and to explore new communities.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram: 343-2217

Twitter: @kate_goes_bleu

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