Carving displayed at LaBelle

AMHERST – It took William Schnute, of Wilton, seven months to create "Cesar’s Watch," an intricate carving in white oak of a grape vine.

He saw it on a wall for the first time on Sept. 13 when it was unveiled at LaBelle Winery, the first of the commissions for the winery’s permanent art collection. The detailed work depicts the vine, above and below ground, with the surrounding habitat including a small rose bush found in many vineyards.

A wine and cheese reception was held at the winery to celebrate the occasion.

"I’ve only seen it as a table top," he told the several dozen supporters gathered for the ceremony. After the unveiling, he described the process of turning more than 300 pounds of hard wood into the intricate depiction of grapes with an owl (named Cesar) perched in the upper left corner. Cesar has his eye on a chipmunk among the vine’s roots. The finished work weighs about 150 pounds.

"That’s a lot of shavings to use for kindling," Schnute joked.

The block of wood he carved was made up of several layers, he said, because of the moisture content of wood.

Schnute grew up in the Chicago area, attended the University of Iowa, moved to California after a tour in the Army, and in 1974 gave up his career in science research for full-time woodcarving, which he had been doing since he was about six, he said.

He and his companion Robin moved to Wilton 10 years ago and took up residence on the grounds of Frye’s Measure Mill, where he established his Oak Leaves Studio.

Much of his work has been large installation pieces – doors, wall panels and mantels. "I’ve never seen 70 percent of my work installed," he said.

More recently he has been doing smaller pieces. Owls are a favorite subject.

For more information or to arrange a studio tour, email oakleaves@redshift.com or call 654-7543.

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