How To Recognize Original, Hand-Made Wood Sculpture

Imagine this: you are in a quaint little shop somewhere in the mountains or at the beach, on vacation. You have been admiring a group of nice-looking wood figures on the shelf there, thinking about how nice one of them might look in your home. You know, right there in the living room near the fireplace, maybe even on the mantle!

Yes indeed, this could be the right wood carving for your home. It looks good, it’s of a figure that interests you, and it sure seems like a bargain. Is it an original woodcarving? Well, it MUST be, as this is the kind of art store that seems to sell neat-looking originals, right? Let’s look a bit closer, and learn about this woodcarving and the millions just like it all over the world.

Original vs. Reproduction Wood Carvings: The Age-Old Argument.

So this might be a reproduction, so what? Well, that is really a good point….if you don’t much care about the issue, then it probably will not be a big deal to you. However, if you DO care about the issue of Original vs. Reproductions, then to YOU it is essential to have an original piece of woodcarving whenever you have the ‘choice’.

After all, original wood carving, signed by the artist, is a joy and privilege to own. You know that it is a true one-of-a-kind. This is true even though the artist may have made other pieces in the same theme or style. You know that you will never see another one just like yours. You also know that, as an original, this piece was hand-made from start to finish. The artist took the time (often too much time) to add every detail, make every stroke personally, and perform each step in the creation process. There is not, and never will be an exact copy of your woodcarving.

On the other hand, we all know the limitations of reproductions. If you buy one for a special place in your home, you will never look at it the same way as you could an original woodcarving. You know there are hundreds elsewhere. You know that it was stamped out of a mill somewhere on a big machine. You also know that it is one in a million, not one of a kind.

A Bit Caustic?

Now all this rhetoric may seem a bit harsh to some, but it really is how I feel about art; wood carving in particular. I have seen lots of artists attempt to make the copies as ‘original’ as possible, by using tricks of the trade. Sometimes they will have originals copied, and then the artist will dab on touches of paint, thereby justifying the high prices he demands.

I’ve seen this in wood carving also. There is a process by which an original woodcarving is created over a long time; very ornate. A bronze cast of it is made, and then used to act as a template for creating hundreds of others, in wood, and then painted. Frankly they can be fabulous wood carvings!

Some sculpture is reproduced using a resin casting method. A cast is made from the original, and then hundreds are cast by pouring a wood-resin into the mold. It is a neat way to reproduced sculpture.

But, whenever I hold one of these reproductions, I know in my heart they are not original woodcarvings, they will always be copies. They do not hold the spirit of the artist, only the intention of the millwright that stamped them out.

That may be all right for many people. In fact, it has shown to be just fine for the mass populace of the planet. But for me, and maybe you, the original wood carving makes us feel the connection with the artist, and with what he was trying to convey at that moment.

Knowing The Difference

So, if you agree with me that an original, at a fair price is really worth having, I will tell you how to spot the differences between the two. Not only can this save you the embarrassment of having made a huge mistake in judgement, but also it can save you a lot of money!

Let’s go back to that shop in the mountains, or at the beach, for a moment to look at those wood carvings again. As you look at the pieces, let me whisper in your ear what to look for……..

Here are several nice woodcarving s on a variety of themes. A shelf full of them! Your eye dances over the line-up; there is an old man’s face; carved as a bust. Next to that is a small statue of a woman in a long robe. Then, there is carving of a Native American Indian. Finally, a very nice sculpture of a wolf and his prey. Each one of these wood carvings is painted in different ways, made of different woods, and even different sizes. Let’s begin with the first carving; the old mans face.

Now, a lot of this information is just plain common sense. Even as I write this, I wonder who is going to believe that ANYONE will not be able to tell the lowest level differences between original and reproduction….. but really there are lots and lots of folk that cannot tell the difference even on the most simple sculptures. Add to that the fact that factories make it their business to make copies as accurately as possible, and you can see that it isn’t shameful to be fooled anymore!

There now, having made my disclaimer, let’s discuss that first wood sculpture. In fact, let’s just talk about the ‘word’ sculpture as opposed to carving. What is the difference here? It can be as simple as price.

You know the old joke about the pronunciation of ‘vase’, right? If it is cheap, it’s a ‘vase’ if it expensive, it becomes a ‘vahhse’. That has always made me laugh. Well, it can be the same with wood sculpture. If it is cheap, it might be called a wood carving, if it is expensive, then it might be referred to as a wood sculpture. Sadly, there is a deal of truth to that. After all, art is strictly a perceptive thing. It’s all in how you like it.

Let’s look at the items in the shop today, and start placing judgement on them, making a list, to determine if they are originals or reproductions.

1. Feel It

Pick the wood carving up. How does it feel? Is it cool to the touch, or does it seem to have a warm quality? Is it heavy, or light? Does it feel smooth, or does it have jagged edges? Do you feel a ‘spray-paint’ finish, or is it smooth and slippery to the touch?

2. Look At It Closely

Think about what you are looking at. Wood grain should be visible somewhere on any original woodcarving, even if there is paint on the subject. Do you see evidence of a carving tool having been there? Do you see the tell-tale sign of a mold-seal along the sides of the item? If you see grain that is not painted, can you see ‘into’ the grain? This is almost a 3-D effect that real wood exhibits when viewed in a strong light. They haven’t figured out how to reproduce that yet!

3. Signature, And More…..

Does the piece bear a signature or mark of the artist? Some reproductions are so poor as to have neglected the all-important connection with the artist that created the piece. Does it have a “Made in China” sticker? Don’t laugh, some people don’t even look, and think they have an original. Is there a script that tells you the production number? Such as 30/1000. This means that this piece is the 30th piece that was created out of a production of 1000 pieces: not an original !

4. Check The Attached Information Tag

Look at the tag that is usually attached to an original sculpture. You should always examine these tags, and ask yourself, “What is this tag trying to avoid saying to me?” Does the tag actually state that THIS piece is an original? Does the tag kind of waltz around that statement? Many dealers do not want to say a wood carving is a reproduction, as it will dramatically affect the price. People expect to pay less than 10% for a machine copy of a wood carving.

5. Ask the Shop Owner

Yes, ask the owner of the shop. A reputable shopkeeper will rarely lie about this, as it can surely come back to haunt him later. Keep in mind, if you are at a Flea Market, or a garage sale, your chances of getting the truth might be somewhat less!

6. Internet Purchases?

The Internet is a great source for finding wood carvings that you would never discover in your travels. When you shop online, use common shopping safety practices concerning credit cards info, and personal data. It’s not dangerous, just don’t do anything you would not normally do when buying something online other than a wood carving. Dealers of art and wood carvings are unlikely to attempt to take advantage of you online, as this is their livelihood also. Most will certainly offer you a return policy in writing. Paying with a credit card or even PayPal offers another layer of protection for you, in the event you do not like the woodcarving, you can easily return it.
Once you get the wood carving to your home, you can then use all these tips to properly examine the piece.

7. Do Your Research

Above all, do your research! If you plan to spend $1,000.00 on anything, I am sure you will look into the subject deep enough to satisfy your curiosity. Conversely, most people can spend less than $50.00 on an obvious reproduction of a wood carving without having to spend days in research. There are too many resources available for you to say at the end of the day that you could not find any information on the topic. If you are like me, the Internet is the greatest resource of all, but even there, you must use your common sense!

So, there you are! Now that you have examined the pieces on the shelf, and you are satisfied that these are originals, only question that remains is, “Which one am I taking home?”

Chuck Hall is a wood carver / sculptor living in Fernandina Beach, Florida located on Amelia Island. He is the owner of Shady Oak Studio, and offers his wood carvings and wood sculptures via his website, as well as art shows, and through select shops and galleries.

Denise Brown Talks About Nicole Brown Simpson and Domestic Violence

Denise Brown, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, has committed herself to raising awareness against domestic violence. Denise’s life took a dramatic turn on June 12, 1994, when her sister was murdered. Now she has committed her life to raising awareness about a crime that kills three women every day in the United States.

When she recently came to Amelia Island, she was the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for Micah’s Place, Inc., Nassau County, Florida’s only Certified Domestic Violence Center. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brown for a very candid conversation and video interview to discuss the increasing rates of domestic abuse, a message she wants shared with the youth of our country, her rarely spoken about relationship with her sister and what Denise Brown has planned for her future.

One of Brown’s biggest concerns is the misconception that domestic violence is not a serious issue. She told me that the numbers of calls coming into the crisis centers are increasing. The additional financial stress families are facing because of our nation’s poor economic health appears to be adding to the incidents of violence in the home.

Anger management is not the answer to domestic violence and abuse. More shelters are needed, Batterer’s Treatment Programs need to be expanded and education needs to begin at an earlier age. The Violence Against Women’s Act has helped with additional funds for shelters and programs, but awareness and public service announcements are not covered in the funding. Domestic violence is a cycle that can be broken. This is no longer a taboo topic and there are no acceptable excuses. No one should have to endure physical, mental and emotional terrorism in their own home.

Having traveled the country speaking at prisons, treatment centers and shelters, there are a few words about this violent crime the youth of our nation needs to hear. “You don’t have to date the captain of the football team if he is not a nice person.” Domestic violence is a choice someone makes; and our children need to be taught this at an earlier age. The book, Hands are not for Hitting, is a great resource to teach our kids that physical violence is unacceptable. This colorful, bright and inviting book helps spread this important message to even the youngest of children that hitting is not okay.

Though Brown has not publicly spoken about Nicole Brown Simpson much in the past, she has recently realized that to many, her sister has not been portrayed as “a real person” through the media. When we sat down with Denise, she opened up about her sister and what she knew about the violent relationship Nicole was involved in prior to her murder. In this touching interview, the link can be found below, Denise speaks of her sister as a hopeless romantic, and in this moment of remembrance she unconsciously uses the present tense.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior that touches real people. Not just poor people, not just celebrities and not just women! Brown is determined to banish the darkness, end the silence, spread awareness and stop the cycle of violence. She founded The Nicole Brown Foundation (, a non-profit national advocacy organization against domestic violence focused on bringing awareness, education and inspiration to others. Denise learned through diaries and notes that her sister had suffered over 17 years of verbal, mental, physical and emotional abuse.

Through the Nicole Brown Foundation, public service announcements displayed on Los Angeles city buses are generating calls from men. Men who are being abused are calling their hot-line and so are the men who want to know how to help someone out of these dangerous and life threatening situations.

Breaking the circle of domestic violence is not easy, nor is making the choice to get out of a violent relationship. Statistics show that the abused return to their abusers again and again before they finally get out and receive the support they need to start over with their lives.

So, what is next for Denise Brown? She is laying the foundation for The Elite Speaker’s Bureau to discuss not just domestic violence, but also other problematic issues of social responsibility utilizing real people, not just celebrities, who are experts in their field.

A Place in Florida – The Airport That Lives With History – Part 2

There’s a place in Florida, Opa-Locka Executive Airport, that just can’t stay out of the history books. So many historic events have gotten their start there since this airport took off in the 1920s that historians could be asking, ‘What’s next?’

Part 1 of this story of Opa-Locka Airport told of its beginnings and subsequent development amid a myriad of changes in aviation and geopolitics. It also recounted nine instances that students of history could point to and say, ‘Why Opa-Locka?’

I don’t have a crystal ball that answers ‘What’s next?’, but I can offer a theory that might explain ‘Why Opa-Locka?’ But first…

Let’s take a closer look at those nine historic events – and why Opa-Locka’s airport seems to have been in the thick of things for almost a hundred years.

Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance
As noted in Part 1, this is America’s greatest unsolved mystery, and it began at this place in Florida, Opa-Locka Airport.

By the time she took off in a Lockheed Electra 10E on June 1, 1937, Amelia Earhart was an international celebrity, known first as ‘Lucky Lindy’, then as ‘Lady Lindy’ as a result of her 1932 first-ever nonstop solo flight by a woman pilot across the Atlantic. Five years after Charles Lindberg’s historic flight, she was now ‘Queen of the Air’.

Before that, she had been a successful and heavily promoted writer who had served as aviation editor of Cosmopolitan magazine – a position that catapulted her into the publishing scene and a marriage – some said “of convenience” — to George P. Putnam, who published two books she wrote.

She also promoted women in aviation by competing in the ‘Powder Puff Derby’. And her high-profile endorsements of such products as luggage, cigarettes and women’s clothing and sportswear (enhancing her tall, thin look that some said emulated Charles Lindbergh’s appearance) endeared her to American women.

When she and navigator Fred Noonan took off at Opa-Locka June 1, 1937, they headed first to the Caribbean, then made multiple stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, arriving at Lae, New Guinea June 29. Only 7,000 miles of their 29,000-mile flight remained – but it was the most difficult part. Almost all of it was over the Pacific.

The plane took off July 2, headed northeast for Howland Island, just a dot on a map. It disappeared in the vicinity of Howland, never to be heard from again. The Navy and others’ vessels searched a 150,000-square-mile area for six to seven days without success. The disappearance spawned many theories, but the mystery was never solved.

Bay of Pigs Invasion
It’s no secret now, but the 1961 disastrous invasion by Cuban exiles of the Bay of Pigs was planned by the CIA at Opa-Locka Airport, troops were trained here, and 20 B-26s were prepared for battle here. The troops’ final training, and the launching of the invasion, took place in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Fidel Castro’s band of 80 rebels had overthrown Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and turned Cuba into a Communist state. The goal at the Bay of Pigs was to overthrow Castro.

E. Howard Hunt (later a Watergate conspirator), aided by friends in Miami’s Cuban exile community, spent time at Opa-Locka drawing up plans for a new Cuban government. The plans were tossed in File 13 when Cuban troops defeated the invaders – destroying Hunt’s reputation as a master spy. The invasion was conceived in the Eisenhower administration, but Hunt blamed the new Kennedy administration and the state department for the defeat, which helped to solidify Castro’s power.

Cuban Missile Crisis
When a U.S. U-2 spy plane discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States in 1962, it resulted in a confrontation that was the closest the world has come to nuclear war. Opa-Locka Airport, rundown and struggling to find new tenants after being on the losing side of the Bay of Pigs invasion, was hurriedly prepared for battle again.

President John F. Kennedy reclaimed Opa-Locka for use as the Peninsula Base Command for an invasion of Cuba. Fourteen days after the crisis began, Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev agreed secretly that the U.S. would remove its missiles in Turkey (it didn’t) and the Soviet Union would remove its missiles in Cuba (it did). Opa-Locka Airport could return to its commercial ways. In 1967, it was the world’s busiest commercial airport.

The CIA and Opa-Locka Airport
With leftists agitating in Latin America’s Banana Republics in the early to mid-1950s — posing a perceived threat to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine designed to keep European powers out of the Western Hemisphere — Opa-Locka became a convenient and available place in Florida to mount and execute covert operations against them. The CIA continued to use Opa-Locka for this purpose until the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

The Infamous ‘Black Flights’
One Banana Republic (a term coined by O. Henry in 1904 to denote a country exploited by large-scale agricultural plantation companies ) was Guatemala. When leftist President Jacobo Arbenz began flirting with Communists in 1952, then brought about land reform opposed by United Fruit (which had ties to the new Eisenhower administration), red flags went up in the United States, if not in Guatemala.

The U.S. decided to depose Arbenz, and Hunt says he did much of the covert planning from a ‘safe house’ in Miami, with more than a little help from Guatemalan exiles at Opa-Locka Airport. In fact, as the coup attempt drew near, there were almost nightly flights from Guatemala to Opa-Locka, bringing anti-Arbenz people in for training. Thus, the term ‘Black Flights’, which to this day officially never happened.

Though no invasion was necessary, the operation was successful. Arbenz was deposed without bloodshed. But that led to decades of unrest in Guatemala and its neighbors.

Mariel Boatlift
In 1980, prodded by 10,000 asylum-seekers demonstrating at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana, Castro said, okay, leave Cuba if you like – and 125,000 did. Most of them headed for Miami, and Opa-Locka airport again was available for any historic event that came along. The U.S. Coast Guard – significantly challenged at the airport to process wave upon wave of the refugees – discovered Castro had opened the doors of prisons and mental health facilities, and 2% of the refugees were criminals. They were denied asylum.

Hurricane Andrew
Destroying or heavily damaging 117,000 homes south of Miami with 165-mile-an-hour winds, Hurricane Andrew displaced tens of thousands of people in 1992. Opa-Locka Airport was the only relatively unscathed place in South Florida from which to mount a massive recovery effort.

The Demise of a Dirigible
Partly because of its spaciousness, Opa-Locka Airport was an important stop-over for ‘blimps’ during the 1930s. The huge airships had had a prominent but checkered role in World War I, so few people questioned the City of Miami’s purchase of an old World War hangar at Key West to dismantle it, move it to Opa-Locka and set up shop as a blimp station in 1929. The U.S. airships Akron and Macon and the German Graf Spee all made well-publicized visits to Opa-Locka. It was not unusual back then to see a blimp in the skies over Miami.

The U.S. Navy’s Akron was an accident-prone flying aircraft carrier – it launched Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes – that in retrospect probably should never have left its Goodyear christening hangar in Ohio. It was overhead in Washington on March 4, 1933, when President Delano Roosevelt took the oath of office. Little did anyone know then, but the Akron was an accident waiting to happen.

Seven days later, the Akron headed for Opa-Locka, bound for Panama, looking for a potential airbase site. On the airship’s return trip, it again stopped at Opa-Locka so her gun crews could get some target practice, among other reasons. Leaving Opa-Locka on March 22, she returned to her home base at Lakehurst, NJ. On April 3, loaded with VIPs interested in airships’ commercial potential, she unexpectedly ran into a violent storm off New Jersey and crashed into the sea, killing 73.

Training of the 9/11 Hijackers
In months preceding 9/11, the terrorists moved about freely in South Florida, as well as in the United States. Few places they visited were more important to their mission than Simulator, Inc., at the Opa-Locka Airport. That’s where Mohammed Atta, the leader, and a sidekick, Marwan Al-Shehhi, paid $1,500 to spend 90 minutes a day for two days learning how to fly a Boeing 767. The simulator, which has controls similar to a 767, has the topography of New York City stored in it. Investigators think the two practiced crashing into the World Trade Center.

So… Why Opa-Locka Airport?
So, why does the Opa-Locka Airport fill the history books? Here’s my theory. Some of these historic events put Opa-Locka Airport in the history books for the same reason some people climb mountains: just because it’s there. But it goes beyond that:

  • The Cold War. Although it began life in the 1920s, the airport is mainly a child of the Cold War. Sure, it had a prominent role in World War II, but it was not until after the war that Opa-Locka Airport became almost a household word.
  • Its location. Think of Florida as an index finger of the United States sitting out in the middle of a vast sea of change, with Miami and Opa-Locka on the fingernail. The fingernail of the index finger always is in the thick of the action, isn’t it?
  • Geopolitics. The winds of change often give birth to extreme measures. Opa-Locka Airport gave the United States a haven for combating what it perceived to be dangers to its political health – in Cuba, in Central America and indeed the rest of Latin America.

Training of the 9/11 hijackers? Why did they choose this place in Florida to learn to fly big planes? I think Opa-Locka Airport was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Top Five Summer Destinations to Spend Your Vacation

Miami and Orlando are well-known for their beautiful and pristine beaches. The fact is, they are the most visited cities in Florida where millions of travelers go every year. The good thing when you spend your vacation in Florida is that, you will find it easier to find the attractions and tourist destinations plus, the places are really clean and world class. So, what are you waiting for? Check these destinations out and see for yourself if there is one which could possibly turn your taste on.

#1. Disney World – it is irrefutably the most popular destination in Florida. Since Disney World stood there, millions of people at any walks of life take time to visit it every year because of its greatest selection of on-property resorts available for all budget ranges. With plenty of shopping malls and boutiques, you have all the options you need to choose what you really want when you want them. Aside from that, Disney World Florida has four great theme parks you can spend quality time with your family plus the first-class diners you can enjoy. What could you possibly ask for?

#2. SeaWorld Orlando – being in or beside the water this summer could be one of the best options you have. But not only that; SeaWorld Orlando does not just bring you some place near the water but also lets you discover and witness the beauty of marine lives you can see every second of your stay. It is an absolute fun watching dolphins perform and feed the colorful fishes while you have your feet soaked in cold water. The truth is, SeaWorld Orlando never fails to please everyone especially during summer time. It is worth your time and effort to go to the place and experience something different, something refreshing.

#3. Daytona Beach – when you are in Florida, you can complete your stay only if you spend some time in Daytona Beach. It is the most famous and most visited beach in Florida ever since it opened to cater the needs of restless “beachers” who are looking for nothing but have quality time in the beach, do sunbathing and submerge into a deeper blue sea. Aside from that, this is where you can easily drive right in the beach if that’s what can make you really enjoy. And you should know that Daytona is well-known for its great surf.

#4. Amelia Island – in Florida, there are great places which are not known to majority of the traveling public and Amelia Island is just one of them. Only a few have known that being in this island could be fulfilling enough that you do not want to go some place else during your vacation or holidays. For this summer, if you haven’t tried to be here, then this could be the best time you should. You can always bring your family with you and get lost into the little secret paradise. For sure, you will be able to find the place relaxing and serene which makes it a perfect getaway.

#5. St. Augustine – vacation would be much enjoyable if you spend it together with your family, friends or loved ones. Thus, if you are looking for a perfect place to stay in Florida, do not hesitate to try going to St. Augustine as it always be the perfect place for you. With its unique attractions and old-world charms, you will be drifted away into the era or romance. The beaches here are even better from those you can find in Miami. The shopping malls are also as big and have better offers than others.

Amazing Must-See Places in Florida

Florida is one of the most interesting states to visit in America. It is a family-friendly place that offers a lot of beautiful scenes and wondrous attractions. It is known for having a warm beach weather, breathtaking beaches and soft sand. One thing to keep in mind though when visiting Florida is to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses and walking shoes. You will find a lot of things to do that you will not mind staying outdoors most of the time amidst the hot weather.

Florida is famous for the Disney World. This is probably the main attraction of this state making it an ideal vacation spot for kids and adults alike. It is indeed a must-place to see especially if you are fond of Disney characters, amazing carnival rides and theme and amusement parks. Other theme parks to visit are Universal Orlando, Sea World Orlando and the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Florida is likewise known for its beautiful, sandy beaches. It offers a sunny weather that perfectly complements beach activities like surfing and snorkeling. Amelia Island is a beautiful place to see with many miles of beaches and interesting state parks that offer trails for hiking, nature watching and biking. It is recommended especially to those who love nature trips and outdoor activities. Amelia Island is a popular spot for beach weddings, spa weekend getaways and golfing activities.

For those who want to have a taste of Europe, St. Augustine is a place to see in Florida. It is known as the oldest European established city in the U.S. It is famous for its natural charm and romantic ambiance in almost every corner. It is a common weekend getaway place as well because of the many leisure activities it offers to families, groups of friends and couples.

If you happen to be spending a lot of time in Orlando, you would not want to miss a taste of its amazing nightlife. Universal City Walk is one of the best spots to see that offers the best in live music, dancing, casual and fine dining, a lot of shopping and movies. It is the home to a wide selection of themed night clubs. So if you feel like drinking and dancing the night away, you should never miss the chance to visit the Universal City Walk.

Florida is indeed a place to see if you adore being outdoors – whether for nature tripping or club hopping. With so many attractions and beautiful places to explore, not to mention a perfect weather to enjoy the beach, Florida is a perfect vacation spot that will leave you with many fond memories.