New member carves niche at gallery

Sam Odrowski

The Fine Line Art Gallery welcomed its newest member last Tuesday and he specializes in wood carving.

Gordon Seeburger moved to Fort Frances from Peterborough in June 2018 and runs several online stores through Etsy, GoDaddy, Shopify, and Pinterest where he sells hand carved pieces of art.
Seeburger has worked with wood since he was a boy and turned it into a post-retirement career over the last eight years.

He said he now considers himself a master carver because he was taught by his father and apprenticed under him.

“I started [wood carving] when I was 10. My dad gave me my first set of wood chisels and a bag of assorted blocks of wood,” he recalled.

“He was a very strong influence over me, that’s for sure, and my mother, too; they were both very deep-rooted artists at heart,” Seeburger added.

He started making money through his wooden carvings around age 15 at his mother’s exotic plant shop.

For his mom, Seeburger carved 12-inch “Easter Island” style tiki heads that were hollowed out at the top with a spider plant sitting inside, which looked pretty cool hanging down, he noted.

“This is in 1977 and she would sell those for $25 which was a hell of a lot of money in those days,” he remarked.

The tiki heads are what got Seeburger into making totem poles and is where he got his nickname “Totem Gord.”

He said he got into making totem poles by accident when his family was clearing a small property at their cottage and he had the chance to work on an eight foot tall tree.

“We used the saw horse my dad had in the backyard and laid it out flat and carved a bunch of heads into it and I was going to cut them all off at the neck–mass production,” Seeburger explained.

“Just as I was bringing my saw up, my dad happened to be walking by and said, ‘No hold on there, you can upright it. I’ve got a metal base you can put on their and you can make a totem pole out of that.'”

Since then, Seeburger has dabbled with making totem poles and also creates wooden masks, love spoons, home decor, wood spirits, mini-statues, and a variety of other art pieces.

While his speciality is wood carving, he also does some wood burning to enhance certain pieces and a little bit of wood lathe work.

He told the Times he really enjoys the relaxed environment at the Fine Line Art Gallery and that’s what attracted him to display his art there.

“They, like myself. are not greedy. We’re in this for the beauty and the art and if you make a few bucks at it, it’s nice,” Seeburger noted.

“There’s a lot of wonderful talent here, just from a quick glance . . . You can see there’s a lot of skill that went into the things on display.”

Seeburger said he’s pleasantly surprised by how many artists there are in and around Fort Frances.
“This is just the people, literally what you call ‘come out of the closet artists.’ Who know’s how many are out there that are saying to themselves, ‘This is just a hobby,'” he remarked.

One of Seeburger’s greatest inspirations for wood carving was Murray Lincoln, a retired minister whom he met while living in Peterborough.

Lincoln did tatting, woodcarving, and created drawings. He use to set up a table at the local mall to sell his art with Seeburger while inviting people to sit down for a chat and some free soap carving lessons.

“He was a real big influence; he was teaching me a couple of different techniques that you don’t learn from school or online,” he remarked.

Lincoln coaxed Seeburger into painting his hand-carved creations which has helped breath life into certain pieces.

When it comes to woodcarving, Seeburger said he most enjoys the process behind creating pieces.
“I’ve got some Indian background in me, so maybe it’s in my blood literally to make totem poles and do wood carving,” he explained.

“I’ve always felt, just like the native American and Canadian Indians, they have a spiritual connection with the wood,” Seeburger added,

“Especially when working with pine and cedar, you can smell the gases that come off the wood and . . . when you’re carving, it’s like your senses are continuing into the wood and onto the surface; you’re becoming one with the wood.”

One of Seeburger’s favourite pieces to carve are love spoons which acted as an engagement ring in European countries since the 17th century.

“Young men use to present these because they were all farmers,” he noted.

“So it was all about the workmanship you put into it.

“You would give it to the girl and she would run to her father and say, ‘Hey look what this guy made for me.’

“Then the father would say, ‘That’s really good workmanship. Marry this guy quick. He’s good with his hands, he’ll be great on the farm,'” Seeburger added.

If the wooden spoons were accepted, they would then be hung over a mantle piece so every time the couple sits down for dinner, it acted as a reminder of their oath to each other.

Once the snow melts, Seeburger said he would like to start chainsaw carving in his backyard, which he has been unable pursue in the past because of mobility issues.

“I’ve got a really good sized backyard and a huge deck that’s only about a foot off the ground so it’d be easy for me to make a ramp and there’s nothing on the deck, so my goal is to get some lithium battery small chainsaws,” he explained

“I always wanted to get into chainsaw carving, but who does that in a wheel chair?”

Seeburger said if the wooden block is in the centre of the deck, slightly raised on a saw horse, he would be able to roll around it without problems.

He hopes to create welcome sign chainsaw bears among other items with the new setup.

“That is going to be a big part of what I’m doing, because you can really crank them out fast when you do it with a chainsaw. If you’re carving a bear or anything out of just hand tools, it takes time,” Seeburger remarked.