Andrew Stoll’s possessions speak loudly of his interests.
He has a vast collection of books ranging from classics to fantasy. Intermixed with his unique drawings are Star Wars collectibles. And like any teenage boy, he enjoys his computer and video games.
However, this 14-year-old’s room is also adorned with a few items rarely found in his friends’ or fellow students’ living quarters. A five-gallon bucket is equipped with a glove, a hand-made tool spindle and carving knives. It rests near his desk and provides space for both his schoolwork and blocks of wood traced out into designs of trees, Santas and other figures.
For those who were to walk into Stoll’s bedroom, they may admire his shelf of carefully carved sea captains and scenes of mushrooms in a field. Further observation of his workspace would give them sound evidence that this young man has created these pieces of art on his own.
Stoll is the youngest member of the Lake of the Ozarks Woodcarving Club. His participation in this 60-member group has awarded him knowledge of an ancient pastime and skill that few students his age dare learn. For Stoll, it’s something he sought out to learn, excelled in over the last eight months and hopes to continue throughout his life.
His quick adaptation to the hobby has inspired the Lake of the Ozarks Woodcarving Club to expand their outreach to youth in the Lake Area community and beyond, hoping to add youth-driven classes and open up membership to students as young as 14 years of age.
“It is wonderful having someone as young as Andrew involved in our organization. We hope by adding more youth programs we can inspire those, like Andrew, to pass this skill along to future generations,” said Bud Murray, Lake of the Ozarks Woodcarving Club board member. “With someone as talented as Andrew, it has been a real treat for us. He truly is a natural.”
Though his talents were natural, Stoll learned from observation of others and the teachings of masters in the trade. And his inspiration to delve into the craft stemmed from pure passion, determination and ambition.
“I love computer and video games, but I wanted to do something where I could see the results of my work,” Stoll said. “I also wanted to do something I could put my feelings into, be constructive and make something.”
He first became interested in woodcarving when he and a friend visited Silver Dollar City more than a year ago.
After watching a demonstration, his interests encouraged him to buy a kit and create his first woodcarving project — a cowboy boot.
Then he attended the Art at the Farm event about a year ago and met some of the members of the Lake of the Ozarks Woodcarving Club. They informed him of their organization and the classes they hold for interested individuals at all skill levels.
Stoll wanted to further his woodcarving ambitions and attended one of the club’s spring meetings, where he was able to meet other woodcarvers and learn more about their activities. He then signed up for one of the club’s threeday courses featuring nationally renowned woodcarving experts. Mike Shipley led the class Stoll attended last summer and he was able to learn the basics from a true master.
“We didn’t go into the detail, but he showed us how do the basic carves and create three different projects,” Stoll said.
Stoll was able to sit his first sea captain figurine by his class-made sea captain and see how the detail was created. He continued to attend meetings when he could and attend the open carves before the evening meetings, learning and getting to know his elder club members.
“They banter back and forth while they carve, and at first I just sat back and listened,” he said. “Then I joined in a little bit. They are all very encouraging.”
For Stoll, his thirst for woodcarving blossomed, leading him to a six-week course taught by Lake of the Ozarks Woodcarvers Club members each fall at the Lake Career and Technical Center in Camdenton. He came back with a flat carve rendition of mushrooms in a field.
This time, Stoll’s mother, Mary, embarked on the journey with him. Even though her hand at the craft may not be as natural as her son’s, she enjoyed gaining the knowledge. She and her husband, Doug, continue to encourage their son’s interest in woodcarving, driving him the 30-plus miles to meetings when they can and enrolling him in classes when the opportunities arise. They hope this summer they will be taking him to another summer class taught once again by Shipley and possibly an apprenticeship through Silver Dollar City.
This constructive pastime is just one of Stoll’s many extracurricular pursuits. He plays trumpet in the Lebanon High School Band and recently received a I-plus rating at district band competition. He sings bass in the school choir and performed in February as part of the honor choir at Chorale Directors Convention in Denver. He is part of a singing and dancing school ensemble that choreographs music and moves into performances. Plus, he is starring as Marcellus Washburn, a leading role in his school’s upcoming musical, “The Music Man.”
If he needs a break, he picks up his latest project, stands over his bedroom desk and begins to carve. He may pick up one of the blanks and designs he has obtained from classes or club meetings or delve into one of the “Christmas Tree” pawns he volunteered to craft for the club’s Christmas fundraiser raffle item — a wood-carved holiday chess set.
Even though he doesn’t quite know what his future goals are, woodcarving does play part in some of his bigger plans.
“There is a book series called ‘Redwall’ by Brian Jacques. It’s a fantasy series set in medieval times using animals. I’d like to create carved scenes from these books and see if the author may be interested in mass producing them or marketing them for his series,” he said.
His dreams coincide with his determined personality, and his family has enjoyed his gift. Stoll crafted a hillbilly for his grandmother and is creating a special work of art for his sister, Katie, and her fiance for their wedding.
For now, Stoll’s possessions include pieces of art that in years to come will grow with each finished project. The club continues to encourage him in his pursuits and is anxious to inspire more youths. Stoll plans to sculpt his future dreams with woodcarving as a productive, enjoyable and skill-building hobby.
“It really is a different pastime for me and it’s fun,” he said. “It is something that is constructive and I like to see how it transforms into something that others can look at and enjoy.”