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Rochester Local

Carving a Niche: A Family Legacy in Woodcarving | Whittling Shack

whittling shack
photo by Rochester Local

Whittling Shack

In the nearby town of Faribault, a family-run woodcarving business has flourished for over fifty years. Reecently they opened up a new woodcarving space here in Rochester, Whittling Shack, off of North Broadway. Rochester Local spoke to the owner and second-generation woodcarver, Chris Whillock, who shared insights about their journey, the art of woodcarving, and their latest venture into a physical storefront in Rochester.

whittling shack
carved map of Rochester at The Whittling Shack | photo by Rochester Local

A Family Tradition

Born into a family with a rich heritage in woodcarving, Whillock and his father Ivan Whillock have been integral in shaping the Southeast Minnesota woodcarving community. The family’s involvement ranges from running woodcarving festivals to founding the Rochester Woodcarvers Club and participating with the National Woodcarving Association, underlining their deep-rooted connection to this craft.

whittling shack
photo by Rochester Local

Bridging Art and Community

Whittling Shack’s space in Rochester isn’t just a shop, it’s a creative hub. It houses tools, supplies, a classroom, and even accommodations for visiting instructors. The diverse range of carvings will catch your attention from the moment you step in the doorway, from museum-quality pieces to more straightforward works suitable for beginners. Willock’s father Ivan, a talented carver and painter, also has his artwork displayed, adding a personal touch to the gallery.

whittling shack
photo by Rochester Local

Educational Outreach

Education is a significant part of the mission at Whittling Shack. They offer classes for various skill levels, from simple relief carvings to more complex forms. In an effort to inspire the next generation of carvers, they’ve adapted their teaching methods for younger enthusiasts by focusing on safer mediums like soap carving to instill the fundamentals of the craft.

whittling shack
whittling shack
whittling shack

Community Integration and Vision

The owners of Whittling Shack have ambitious plans for their new space, which they’ve occupied for just over two weeks. They aim to make the shop a local landmark for woodcarving enthusiasts. Besides selling carvings and tools, they envision it as a place where people can learn, create, and appreciate the art of woodcarving.

Challenges and Adaptation

Chris Willock is optimistic about the future of woodcarving and operating in a physical location. Opening the doors in Rochester was a labor of love, built upon a lifetime of friendships, relationships, and networks throughout the Southeast Minnesota region. Already, classes have filled up with visiting experts and local masters sharing their knowledge and love of the craft. A challenge that faces many businesses now–bridging the gap between our online and physical worlds–has taken creative solutions. Leveraging his established online presence for tool and supply sales, Chris Willock is exploring ways to blend traditional woodcarving with modern techniques like CNC and 3D printing.

The Artistic Spectrum of Woodcarving

Entering into the store section of Whittling Shack, the vast and diverse styles in woodcarving from carvers across the region will strike you with wonder and amazement. The spectrum is vast, from chainsaw carvings to intricate bird and fish carvings from a single piece of wood. Chris emphasizes that artistic talent isn’t a prerequisite for woodcarving, making it an accessible art form for many. There is an array of tools, guides, and instructors available at Whittling Shack to help learn the craft for any age (recommended 12 and up) and skill level.

It’s clear that this woodcarving business is not just a shop, and it’s also not just a classroom space. Whittling Shack is a testament to a family’s passion for the craft, a center for community engagement, and a beacon for preserving and evolving the art of woodcarving. Whillock’s vision to blend tradition with modernity, while fostering a love for woodcarving in the community, is not just inspiring but a model for other artisan businesses. Be sure to stop by and be inspired by the breadth of artistic vision that woodcarving can provide.

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