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21Country: The scroll saw artist

CHURUBUSCO, Ind. (WPTA21) - Inside a small workshop, Rhonda & Fred Inman turn pieces of wood, into works of art.

The couple is behind I” Wood Artist, selling their creations at art fairs across 21Country.

But it is Rhonda, who’s primary tool is the scroll saw, turning its blade into a brush, carving out beautiful wooden portraits and ornaments.

Still working on her career in sales, Rhonda escapes to the pole barn outside their home losing herself in the steady focused required to turn a mosaic of tiny cuts, into a detailed image.

“Back in 2006, my husband bought an old lathe,” she explained. “We were trying to get out of farming -- 60 acres and taking care of animals.”

Prior to that, Rhonda had no other hobby that remotely resembled the art she would master across the next 15 years… except sewing.

“I liked sewing before,” she said, “and a sewing machine is real similar to what a scroll saw is… instead of a needle with thread in it, it’s a real small blade.”

Using designs from scroll saw magazines, she began to tackle the most challenging pictures, prepared to spend dozens of hours to get it right.

She prefers illustrations of wildlife, and nature, but will try anything her customers request.

The piece of wood she begins with, her canvases, play a huge role in what image she chooses.

“I look at it, and see what would work best with that piece of wood,” she shared. “How many details would work best on that piece of wood? How many details are already in that wood that will work into that picture?”

Often, a knot or the color of the wood grain will be worked to represent the sun, or grass.

“Woodburning brings out more details, like eyes or hoovers,” Rhonda added.

Another factor that influences her designs?

“Mistakes happen!” she laughed. “You try to work those into the art.”

"And if that don’t work, you change the art piece and make it something else,” Rhonda continued, “and if that don’t work it goes into the trash and you start over.”

Scroll saw art she has in her studio currently, include a scene of elk in the wild, leopards which look like their peering out of a wood tree stump, and a lone moose standing proudly among its habitat.

Some of her most popular selling items are wooden Christmas tree ornaments, ornate and fragile in design, stored in a protective block of wood, from which they were carved from.

With so many more portraits Rhonda plans to make, she has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

“It will never get to a point where it is so easy that I can do it in my sleep. You have to be patient and keep your eyes open at all times,” she stated. “It’s just so relaxing, so calming, to just sit there and concentrate on something, and have something beautiful come out later.”

“I hope everyone will see the beauty that wood has to offer,” Rhonda told us. “All they have to do is touch or hold it, and they are hooked!”

You can view Rhonda Inman’s works for sale, or contact her for commissioned art here.

Her studio is one of fourteen that will open to the public as part of the 2021 Falling for Art Tour Saturday October 9 (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.) and October 10 (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.).

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out:

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