When Neal Goldstein’s mother gave him a woodcarving kit in high school, he took to the art of carving with a slow start — basic mountain men faces — but has made a strong finish.
“My first two or three were pretty stupid looking,” Goldstein said. “By the third time, I got the hang of it. It had a hat and a goatee and a pipe.”
Goldstein has since moved onto bigger projects, including the 8-foot by 5-inch standing “Bigfoot” carving he made with the help of friends Clyde Beck and Elden Cyrus.
Goldstein has known Beck since grade school and asked if he could bring a large piece of wood from one of Beck’s excavation and tree removal jobs. Beck brought the hunk of wood on his dump truck and made initial cuts for the Bigfoot carving.
“He asked me if I could find him a big log. I do excavation and tree removal, and they had to take a big tree out on Mill Street,” Beck said. “I did two or three of the first big cuts because his saw wasn’t big enough, and he’s done it from there.”
Goldstein also elicited the help of Cyrus, whom he met at the Nevada County Fair when Cyrus was selling his own wood bear carvings.
“He called me on advice on how to assist him with carving,” Cyrus said. “I didn’t have any experience carving Bigfoot, but I did the shoulders and biceps and shaped the feet. I think it came out really good.”
Goldstein said he would not have been able to complete the Bigfoot without Cyrus.
“Without Elden Cyrus’ help, I don’t know what I would’ve done,” he said.
Cyrus said the project was not only an artistic endeavor but also a way to make friends.
“It was an opportunity to practice and help him out at the same time,” he said. “He wanted some help, and we’ve become friends, so it’s an awesome way to meet people.”
Goldstein said he started working for himself after having a string of less-than-ideal bosses. Goldstein owns Above and Beyond Landscape in Grass Valley and has sold some of his pieces to friends and family.
“I like working for myself,” he said. “I just decided that was what I wanted to do and work for myself; and business has been going good. Getting rent and paying bills.”
He said he would like to start featuring his carvings on the business promotion site etsy.com but still needs to decide on pricing and snap some photos of his work.
Goldstein said he doesn’t formally advertise but has signs on some of his trucks, and his
work is spread mostly through word of mouth.
Goldstein said he comes across useful pieces of wood through his landscaping business, such as the tree roots he uses to make snakes. One of his most recent projects has been to install cut gemstones into the grooves of a snake’s eyes and along its body.
“There are 88 cut gemstones on each side,” Goldstein said of the piece.
There are also several deep-sea fish that Goldstein has carved and embellished with palm thorns.
“They are really unique and different,” he said. “I use palm thorns for teeth.”
Goldstein has also carved wood blocks into hound dogs, a seal’s head, for which he won third place at the fair, a shark’s head with a broken surfboard in its mouth, beaver faces and faces in trees to create “tree spirits.”
He also installed marble into the eyes of a pufferfish his friend gave him.
“He’ll bite one of your fingers off if you give him the chance,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.