How I came to carve whales: I first heard of woodcarver Wick Ahrens
affectionately known at “Moby Wick’ after my siblings and I bought a shop
in Duck, North Carolina with its inventory, which included several of
Wick’s carved whale plaques. I remember immediately being drawn to them,
their style and finish. We soon realized it was Wick’s ‘Whales in Vermont’
sign we passed as kids on our frequent snowboard trips to Ludlow VT. We
developed a phone relationship as we continued to sell his whales, but
never met in person. After 3 years I left North Carolina for New Jersey,
to mentor under my father Lance, himself a bird carver for nearly 40
years. After 5 years of apprenticeship with my Dad, I moved on to familiar
Vermont to set up my own shop, and continue my family’s woodcarving
tradition. I was a mere 15 minutes from Wicks gallery in Weston. Learning
I was a woodcarver, people would always ask if I knew Wick, the whale
carver in Weston. I would explain our small connection, but never stopped
to meet him, until the day I did. We talked as if we had known each other
forever. We talked shop, tools, wood, paints, galleries, nature, politics,
human nature and dogs Wick’s work and space inspired me. Wick inspired me.
Wick shared with me how it was he had come to carve whales.
was mentored by Clark Voorhees of Old Lyme CT and Weston VT. Clark was the
son of Clark Greenwood Voorhees, an American Impressionist and tonal
landscape painter and one of the founders of the Old Lyme Art Colony.
Clark inherited his father’s artistic talent and became a well-known
carver of whales and birds. Wick admired Clark’s freedom to go into his
shop, create anything he wanted and make a living doing that, a feeling I
related to. Clark invited him into his shop and showed Wick the finer
points of carving. Clark quickly became a great friend and second father
to Wick. Years later while studying Art at the San Francisco Art
Institute, Wick realized sculpture was his calling. Remembering his
Vermont mentor, he made some minor attempts copying Clark’s whales, then
went a step further and started sculpting more realistic whales finished
in acrylic. Travels throughout California and Hawaii allowed Wick to
actually swim alongside these great leviathans. His respect for these
beings, his understanding of the movement of whales and his natural skill
led Wick to creating magnificent sculptures along with his plaque series.
While on a return trip to Vermont, Clark gave Wick his blessing to
continue carving in his tradition.
After successful years in CA,
including creating the world’s largest whale sculpture, “Gray Whale and
Calf” now on display at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz,
Wick moved back to Peru Vermont and continued to grow his business. A
tragic, yet “freeing” fire destroyed his shop and inventory, but with love
support and determination he was able to rebuild in Weston VT. His
historic home and gallery at the end of a dirt road became his sanctuary
and an unforgettable attraction for visitors. If you were lucky enough to
have visited Wick, you were greeted by his beloved Australian Shepherds,
and awed by the gallery he built in his living room.
In 2012 Wicks
health began to suffer beyond the point he could comfortably keep up with
his orders. He asked “the only person he could think of” to help him in
his shop and fill his orders, me. Having been carving birds for 13 years,
Wick appreciated my knowledge of wood and tools and my readiness to step
up and help. I started carving with him 2- 3 days a week. Wick became my
“northern Dad” and I became “the daughter he never had.” We worked
together for 2 years, and he absolutely changed my life. I feel so blessed
to have been able to spend shop time with him and learn from a master.
In 2014, when Wick’s health forced him to retire to the Gill Home in
Ludlow VT he asked me if I would be interested in taking over his business
and continue carving whales. It didn’t take me long to answer. I was
honored. I adopted his dog, bought his business, and continue in his
tradition. I work on the bench Clark passed on to Wick and it inspires me
to grow without forgetting where I came from. I am humbled to be a part of
such a rich carving history.