Carving a niche

Thriving art group promotes
crafts in Grant County, Ky.

Monthly local exhibits
highlight area’s varied talent

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

DRY RIDGE, Ky. (June 2009) – Wood carver Brian Sims cannot remember ever being without a pocket knife. Growing up as a boy in Kentucky in the 1960s, he spent much time whittling, a process that has allowed him to use his creative talent and turn a boyhood hobby into a lucrative career.
“I suppose having a pocket knife was a standard, Dad-issued piece of equipment,” said Sims who grew up in Louisville, Ky., but spent most of his life in the Lexington, Ky., area.

Brian Sims

Photo provided

Wood carver Brian Sims has been
commissioned by McDonald’s and
country music star Gretchen Wilson
to create his unique carvings.

Sims, 50, did not master the art of woodcarving until much later in life. In 1992, while camping with a friend, their hatchet handle broke and they realized it was a piece of equipment they couldn’t be without. Sims found a log and carved a handle for the hatchet with a Stanley utility knife.
“The process felt good, and I found another piece of wood and carved what would become the bust of a Native American Chief. The resulting piece, although crude was promising and I loved the feel of carving.”
A few years ago he participated in the Autumn Art Festival in Grant County, Ky. The event is sponsored by Community Enrichment Through the Arts. He thought it was such a great show that he took part in the following two CETA art shows and was honored as an “Artist of the Month.”
When his wife was transferred from Shelbyville, Ky., to northern Kentucky, the couple settled in Dry Ridge. Sims now sits on the Board of Directors for CETA. He began his wood carving and sculpting business, HipShot Wood Carving, in 2003.
“We have a variety of artists and craftspeople in CETA,” said member Judy Mullins, who is also the tourism director for the Grant County Tourism Commission. One wall in the Tourism Commission Center is dedicated to a rotating gallery exhibit, featuring a different artist each month. The Tourism Commission Center is located in the Dry Ridge Outlet Center, 1116 Fashion Ridge Rd., just of exit 159 of I-75.
CETA is constantly on the lookout for ways to highlight its members. An Artisans Day is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on June 28. Several artists will be demonstrating their crafts indoors and outdoors at the Tourism Commission Center.
In 2001, Mullins, who also crafts herbal soaps and does basket and chair weaving, met an individual with the Kentucky Arts Council and asked him how she could go about forming an art group in Grant County. Mullins organized a group of artists who called themselves the Eagle Creek Arts Council. The name was later changed when a group known as Grant County Celebrating the Arts wanted to join with them, and they are now simply known as CETA.
Sims liked what he saw CETA accomplishing for area artists. He carves professionally on a full time basis and said woodcarving is both “my occupation and my hobby.”
A self-taught carver, his medium of choice is wood, although he has used marble, granite and other stones as bases. He does not paint any of his carvings because he believes it masks the natural and complex beauty of the wood.
“Woodcarving is, in my opinion, taking the beauty of Mother Nature’s creation and enhancing it,” said Sims. “When I am carving, I achieve a state of mind where all worldly concerns are gone and the wood and the art become of singular focus. I love the feel of wood in my hands.”
Sims has created pieces for many notable customers who include U.S. Air Force and Marine squadrons, horse owners, collectors and country music star Gretchen Wilson. Wilson’s tour production manager contact Sims about a carving he had seen on Sims’ website titled, “Wisdom,” said Sims.
“He wanted to give it to Gretchen as a gift because it reminded him of the stories she told of her grandmother. When he saw the piece in person in Nashville, Tenn., he could not believe the feelings “Wisdom” evoked.”
Sims was contacted by one of McDonald’s major ad agencies and asked to carve the golden arches for President and C.O.O. of McDonald’s Worldwide, Ralph Alvarez. The carving was a gift to recognize Alvarez’s accomplishments and was carved from Cuban Mahogany

• For more information on CETA, contact Judy Mullins at (859) 322-3082 or (859) 824-3451 or visit www.cetaarts.us. For more information on Brian Sims, please visit his website at: www.HipShotWood.com.

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