Pugh Windham’s woodcarvings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2000

on display at Festival


Features Editor

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May 3, 2000 10 PM

Somewhere back in the countryside of Pike County, there lived a woodcarver by the name of Pugh Windham.

As far back as he could remember, Windham loved to whittle and draw. One day a very perceptive, but notorious teacher, Miss Alma McGaugh, happened to see a picture little Pugh had drawn on the back of his dictionary. She recognized his talent and began to bring him pens and pencils and soap for carving.

From those humble beginnings Pugh Windham became of the true "raw, self-taught" woodcarvers in the country. He gained so much recognition for his work that his work was selected for exhibition in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Two of his catalpa carvings, "The Angel of Birth" and "The Angel of Death" are on display in the Institute’s National Museum of American Art.

Two of Windham’s drawings, "Soap Making" and "At the Cowpen" are on exhibition at the prestigious John Judkyn Memorial Institute in England.

This institution sends exhibits of American history, life and customs to schools and museums all across the British Isles.

Windham’s carvings were based on what he saw in his lifetime, especially in his boyhood. In later years, Windham began to carve images from dreams and his imagination.

The process of producing his woodcarvings was a lengthy one. After selecting and cutting is own wood, it was air dried for three to four years. The actual carving was done with tools he made by hand. The completion of a carving took from one to six weeks.

Windham couldn’t keep up with the demand for his work. Art collectors sought him out and, finding Pugh Windham was no easy task. He lived all of his live within a mile of where he was born in an obscure corner of rural Pike County.

This weekend, visitors to the Jean Lake Festival will get a rare glimpse of one of Pike County’s greatest treasures, a backwoods woodcarver who will live forever though his art.