La. man makes carvings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 3, 2009

LEESVILLE, La. (AP) — In his spare moments, the retired corrections major can be found at one of three fairly plain places, making detailed carvings and furniture.

The places are Jerry La Caze’s workshop, his front-porch rocker and the tailgate of his pickup truck.

La Caze, who retired several years ago from Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, seems to have perfected what most everyone lacks these days — patience.

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La Caze has done this with wood.

‘‘It’s good and relaxing,” he said. “If you like sitting around, drawing, scribbling or painting — you’d like this.’’

La Caze picked up the hobby before his retirement several years ago, and has since has been trying his hand at carving for about a year.

La Caze, who grew up in the piney community of LaCamp, makes everything from wood furniture to small ornamental pieces. He creates pieces for family and friends and sells some of his work, but does it mostly, he said, for hobby.

La Caze often puts the tailgate down on his truck and carves at places like Walmart while he waits for his wife, Doris, to shop.

‘‘My reward is seeing the smiles on people’s faces, seeing that someone actually likes the things that I make,’’ he said.

The most intricate of La Caze’s work is the small wooden figures he carves and the Celtic ‘‘love spoons’’ he makes.

The spoons were first made in the 1600s and were used as a courtship gift.

La Caze crafts his spoons in traditional Celtic designs and also carves animals like birds and raccoons. He recreates rural scenes and people.

His small log cabin replicas look alike, but each is unique.

La Caze uses reclaimed wood in his work as much as possible. He uses bark from oak firewood for rustic picture frames and felled pine limbs for most of his small carvings.

‘‘It’s doing my part, trying to keep the planet green,’’ he said.

La Caze said he is still learning — and perfecting — his carvings. He uses X-Acto knives and some specialty tools.

‘‘I try to get them as realistic as I can get them, but I have a long way to go,’’ he said.

La Caze uses his wife and daughter, Twaila, to measure the ‘‘appealability’’ of his work.

His dog, Bear, is a constant carving companion. ‘‘Wherever I am, he’ll sit right beside me,’’ he said.

La Caze said he follows one simple principle with each carving — one that can easily translate to life.

‘‘Wood carving is one of those mediums where it is easy to take it off, but you can’t put it back,’’ he said.


Information from: American Press,