Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with wood sculptor Rick Larimore of Urbana and Fairmount. In the Aug. 26 newspaper, we'll have a visit with Tito Carrillo, a professor of trumpet at the University of Illinois.
Q: Wow, this is some studio.
A: I enjoy being in here, and I enjoy doing the work.
Q: Why did you build it out here (near the Salt Fork River)?
A: Well, this is where we had a place, family land. I hunt and fish and hike out here, too.
Q: When did you start working with wood?
A: I've always done a little bit. I started making the serious wood sculptures two years ago when I retired from the Natural History Survey. Before that, I studied art at Parkland College, right after graduating from (Urbana) high school and at Ohio University in Athens. I worked for Frank Gallo in high school, just doing labor on his work. So I did epoxy work for a few years during and after Ohio.
Q: Did you ever get an art degree?
A: Nope. I did landscaping and tree work for quite a few years and then started raising vegetables. We bought a little farm down near Charleston, and we sold at the farmers' market in Urbana and started a little C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture). I got a little tired of not making money at that, so I went back to school, got a degree in botany and went to work at the Natural History Survey for 15 years.
Q: Do you use local wood in your sculptures?
A: It's almost all local, except a little cypress from a fence that a friend salvaged. It's easy enough to find a lot to keep busy with. Both of these are black cherry.
Q: You got that from around here?
Q: I noticed at the Sleepy Creek winery that your pieces have organic forms. Is that what you try for?
A: I'm not sure what I try for. I try for some kind of relationship to life forms, I guess. Sometimes the wood dictates the shape or idea. It's a process to try to find the wood to fit the idea. I hesitate to name my pieces or represent anything with them. They don't represent anything definite, just possibilities. You can come up with your own ideas.
Q: Do you ever make functional objects?
A: I've made some bowls and spoons. That seems like work. You start seeing how much time is in those things and compare that to a factory bowl. ... It's more fun to be creative.
Q: How much do you carve by hand and how much by machines?
A: Well, some of each. I have some power tools, but the hand carving is more pleasurable.
Q: What's that there?
A: It's a shaving horse. Every farm used to have a shaving horse to make ax handles with.
Q: So you sit on it and hold the wood in that clamp? Did you make the horse?
Q: What do you like about working with wood?
A: At least right now, I enjoy bringing out the beauty of the wood and having the wood show off the carving as much as possible. I suppose I'll work with clay again some time, and I've done some painting in the past.
Q: Are you represented by any galleries?
Q: How long will your show be at Sleepy Creek?
A: Through September, at least the end of September.
Editor's note: Sleepy Creek Vineyards is 3 miles south of Oakwood off Oakwood Road. Cross a bridge over the Salt Fork River and go up a hill. At the top, look for the blue tourist sign on the right telling you to take the next left, or east. Turn onto County Road 1425 N. Turn right, or south, into the first drive on the right. The winery is open from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.