Perl Totman has been carving things since he was six or seven years old and would carve his mom’s soap bars. Now, you can find him in Muskingum Park in downtown Marietta, Ohio.
Totman has been working on this tree for over a month. He says that he doesn’t keep track of the time because he is doing it for fun, but other people like to keep track.
The tree that Totman is carving was damaged by the emerald ash boar that struck the whole state. The tree has been killed from the outside but is still solid in the middle. What was left of the tree was good hard wood that is great for carving. There are lots of damaged trees in the area and Totman notes that there are at least a dozen in the park alone.
“I carved a tree in the round in 1981 and at that time I was a member of the Dayton Ohio Wood Carver’s Guild,” Totman said.
Totman joined the Guild in 1978 and noticed that he was starting to get more serious about carving. Some of the Guild members were carving damaged trees in their home towns.
The tree carving Totman is working on now is of a colonist or pioneer. When I talked to him, he was working on the powder horn. Totman is a history lover and paid great attention to detail and historical accuracy when making the carving.
“In the days of the pioneers, pants weren’t made with pockets, so they had to have a powder horn and a necessity bag to store ammunition,” Totman said.
Totman got a sketch from the library and adjusted it to the scale he would like as inspiration for the colonist. He notes that the job does require a lot of patience.
“You can’t get impatient because you’ll take too big a chip off and then you will have to make everything else deeper,” Totman said.
Totman has another major sculpture that can be found at the Shawnee State Park Marina just beyond Portsmouth. The stone sculpture commemorated the first Ohio canoe adventure in the historic waterways through the state. These waterways were the main trade routes for Indians. Totman himself loves to canoe and has canoed over 2,000 miles in his lifetime.
“The monument has about a 16-inch square map of the state of Ohio carved into it with an Indian in his canoe across the map, which is the logo of the Ohio Historic Canoe Route Association,” Totman said.
Totman is often stopped while he is working on the carving, since it is in such a public area.
“If the people that stop to talk are from out of town, I will give them a brief history of the area about the pioneers and the most prominent points of interest like Mound Cemetery and Lookout Park,” Totman said.
Totman notes that the people in the area have been very supportive of his work. The tree in Muskingum Park is Totman’s only carving project for the summer and you can find him there working on it almost everyday.