Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Wendell Gilley Art Museum

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47℉ at 6:30 am, cloudy, high 57℉

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

We spent the better part of the morning doing laundry and cleaning up inside the trailer. A visit to the Wendell Gilley Museum was the next order of the day. I spent a lot of time there in 2012 while Martha took a bike tour in the park. I love this place! Mr. Gilley was a plumber for most of his life. He had a very successful business on the island, having four employees. In his mid-50’s he began carving birds as a hobby. The museum has a great film interview of him 35 years ago. The young girl who interviewed him for the film still works at the museum, and came up to talk to us after watching it. You can see his soft manner and speech, telling how he got started and how it progressed. He gave his first tiny decoy to a secretary of a local business. Years later, after he had become famous, she gave it back to him, saying he should have his original carving. He made her a new one in exchange. He said he could work with drills and sanders, but holding the wood in his hands, he could feel the bird as it developed, and feel what he needed to change. Working for a special client, he tried hard to make a great carving and kept failing. He said his best work came when he just carved, letting the work flow. He had a great little shop to work in, saying he enjoyed the quiet hours alone. He finally sold his plumbing business and spent all his time carving.

One room of the museum has his original workbench and tools. A very nice gentleman, Steven Valleau,  carves at another table. He has been carving for 30 years or more and teaches classes. In the winter there is a 6-month course, but there are also 1-day or multiple-day courses (http://www.wendellgilleymuseum.org/education/workshops.html). The museum is an active place where artists come to see or practice or show their work. A cabinet holds work of some of the students. A man talked with Steven about his own carvings, what he was doing and what he needed help with.

We spent an hour or so marveling at Mr. Gilley’s many carvings. I have often thought of carving, so I bought his book and Martha bought some placemats. I love this active museum. Mr. Valleau said it was well worth a trip to visit Mr. Gilley’s cousin, who also carves. We saw a sign for his house on our drive yesterday. If we pass it again, we will go in.

4 Responses to “Wendell Gilley Art Museum”

  1. LeRoy and Sissy Bruton

    boy oh boy, I love the wood carvings. My favorite thing. You should give it a whirl. I’d be willing to bet you would be good at it. Enjoyed the whole Arcadia drive and show this morning. I don’t think we are going to have a very pretty fall here. Leaves are drying up and falling too fast. The weather has been setting new highs this week for this time of year. Enjoy!

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  2. Greg

    Yea, I love these too. I have often thought I would give it a try. We’ll see after I read his book. We are headed for the southwest corner of Maine today, to a town called Naples. It is raining, so might as well drive! All the best to you and Sissy!

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