Woodcarver William Schnute exhibit at Wilton library

WILTON – The rotunda of the Wilton Public-Gregg Free Library is filled with intricate woodcarvings, the work of professional woodcarver William Schnute who has had a studio on the grounds of Frye’s Measure Mill for the past 10 years.

The exhibit will continue through the month of January and can be viewed during regular hours. Call the library at 654-2581.

For most of his professional career, Schnute’s work consisted of large commissions for doors, windows, mantels and wall pieces. With the changing economy, he said while setting up the display, he now has seen fewer of those jobs.

“Without commissions, I’m able to do things I’ve put off, for the first time I’ve had things to show in a gallery,” he said.

Those pieces include “The Chase,” a large round work with a fox at the top and a rabbit at the bottom against a background of oak leaves.

“Foxes frequently don’t catch the rabbit,” he said.

Schnute likes oak leaves and has named his studio for them, Oak Leaves Woodcarving Studio, in Wilton. The sign outside his door is a large cluster of oak leaves – a carving he has had for many years.

Other pieces in the exhibit include a llama’s head and a barn owl coming through a broken window.

“Llamas are such interesting animals,” he said. “And who doesn’t have a barn owl?”

Schnute, 70, grew up in Iowa, graduated from the University of Iowa, spent some time in the U.S. Army, and lived in California for 17 years.

“I always wanted to live on the East Coast, in or near an old mill,” Schnute said in an interview in 2005. “I’d like to live in a lighthouse, but they’re too popular.”

His shop at Frye’s is perfect, he said. Being out of the mainstream is both a good thing, since it gives him quiet, although few people drive by.

He began carving when he was about 6, Schnute said. Carving is something you are born with, like music or dance, he said.

“If you’re lucky you can turn it into a career. So far it’s been a good idea,” he said.

In the past, he said in 2005, he had usually had a home studio, but that wasn’t always easy since home occupations were not allowed. Since he was doing commercial pieces, it was not considered an art or a craft and no one was teaching it.

“Everybody assumed you had to go to Europe to get the big architectural pieces,” Schnute said.

He left California, he said, “because of the cultural idea that no one should have to work hard. This place has all the things I need to be a woodcarver.”

For more information, visit www.redshift.com/~oakleaves/index.html or call 654-7543.