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Artist Ron McWhorter has been awarded a “Citation of Achievement” from the Kentucky House of Representatives. The award, initiated by Rep. Rita H. Smart, was sent to McWhorter by mail and arrived as a complete surprise.
McWhorter’s beautiful hand-hewn bowls can be found at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, where McWhorter occasionally demonstrates his technique alongside fellow members of the Berea Welcome Center Carvers.
“I opened the envelope and pulled out the citation and looked at it, scratched my head, read it through and just couldn’t believe it was true,” said McWhorter. “What a great surprise and what an incredible honor!”
McWhorter quickly brought the citation and news over to the Kentucky Artisan Center, where three of his friends from the Berea Welcome Center Carvers were demonstrating. He showed his newly awarded citation to staff at the center and a copy was made to display proudly alongside his unique bowls.
McWhorter was born in Owsley County, KY and grew up on a farm in Jackson County. He studied at Sue Bennett College and at University of Kentucky before working as an engineer for IBM.
McWhorter has whittled wood since the age of six, when he acquired his first pocket knife. In 1978 he joined the Lexington Woodcarvers Guild and later joined the Berea Welcome Center Carvers.
McWhorter began making dough bowls with a mallet and gouge around 1990. Starting with a length of log cut in half, he chops out the interior, and then shapes the outside of the bowl. It is slow work. When he remembered that men from his grand-father’s generation used an adz to cut out bowls, he searched and found several. Eventually he created his own tool, taking a big gouge and welding it together with a claw hammer. The long handle and heft make for more efficient motion and cutting.
McWhorter likes to use a variety of woods for his bowls, predominantly maple, cherry and walnut. He occasionally makes a bowl from Osage orange or poplar, liking the unusual color and variations they offer.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea is located just off Interstate 75 at Berea Exit 77. The center’s exhibits, shopping and travel and information areas are open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the cafe is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea currently features works by more than 700 artisans from more than 100 counties across the Commonwealth. Special exhibits on display include “Great Impressions: Prints by Kentucky Artisans,” through Sept. 10, 2016; and in the lobby, “Kentucky Clay: A Continuing Tradition.” For more information about events call 859-985-5448, go to the center’s website or visit the center’s Facebook page.
Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea is an agency in the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.