One day this week we went to Albany Oregon to see the Dentzel American Carousel Museum and Workshop. The museum is devoted to Gustav Denzel. It hosts the world’s largest collection of Dentzel carousel pieces. There are several original Denzel horses there. They also have signs and other things from the Denzel works that used to be in Philadelphia.
This is a community carousel in progress. It has been funded and supported by the efforts of volunteers grants and donations. It all started by the dream of one woman who borrowed $150 to kick it off. They needed six million dollars for this project and are currently only 300,000 shy of that goal. The carousel building will be built sometime this year, perhaps even this spring. They currently have about 30 of the critters done (though some are in the paint stages and some are awaiting shellac finish) out of the 52 the carousel will hold. Some of the completed animals are on display in shop windows in downtown Albany. Another six or more animals will be created that will be used for special holidays like Christmas and Fourth of July. Also some will be used to switch out if something gets broken.
The animals were selected by sponsors. A sponsor of $10,000 can select an animal and decide what they want on it. There is an elephant that has all the family names on its blanket. An optometrist sponsored a bear who will be wearing glasses. Someone else has an orca that is adorned with a sea otter, an octopus, a star fish, and the star fish holds a baseball. I am not sure what the baseball is for. The design is drafted on a computer, and printed on 11 x 14 inch paper in pieces, then taped together. A master carver then looks at the design to figure out sections that will be pieced together. The wood, basswood, is laminated in Salem with care as to which direction the grain lines go, then cut to rough size and sent back to Albany. It is so cool to see the transformation of the animals from design to blocks to finished product.
Volunteers raised the money and volunteers are building it. It is volunteers that run a gift shop, volunteers who sand and paint, and volunteers who carver. I found out that on certain days, you show up, and they tell you what to do. So I did. I went to carve. They have a master carver who walks the newcomers through the steps involved and the tools used. They start everyone out on a rosette. There are many carved rosettes that will adorn the carousel, but they also sell some in their museum shop
The carvers that were there were all very nice, and very helpful. I have done a little carving before when I made a few decoys, but that was only using a straight knife. This was using palm chisels and imagination but no pattern. It was a whole different ball game for me. But so much fun! I can’t wait to go back again.