Jim Ferguson

Using the “new artist” tag for long-time AACC member and woodcarver Jim Ferguson is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, Jim joined AACC so long ago that he’s unable to remember the year his relationship with the center began. During that lengthy tenure, Jim was at times a Board member, the Board President and a juried artist. After a sabbatical of a few years from the juried artist ranks, Jim was encouraged to move his wares back into our gift shop by the late Susan Sweetser, AACC Board President. In the fall of 2021, Jim, once again, became a “new” artist.

 Jim can’t remember a time when he wasn’t carving something. As a young boy, like most boomer boys of the 1950s, he had a pocketknife that he carried at all times. His carving hobby took a leap forward at the Big South Fork Haunting in the Hills Storytelling Festival in 1996. Then, as now (the festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary this September), the festival offered music, crafts, games and, of course, storytelling – much of it on the spooky side.

 Jim attended the festival with his wife, a dulcimer player, a uniquely Appalachian stringed instrument invented by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the early 1800s. A group of woodcarvers at the event caught Jim’s eye that year and he watched them at their work. The next year, he started to learn and practice with the carvers. And it wasn’t long before he was teaching carving classes to young people at Big South Fork, using soap in the place of wood to preserve young fingers and hands. 

Jim began creating carvings for family and friends and, like many craftspeople, soon found he had a surplus of inventory. So, he began selling his work to the public. His work has evolved over the past two decades from caricatures to animals to realistic human forms such as faces, busts and some full figure carvings. While butternut is his favorite material species, he also carves from basswood, spalted maple, walnut, and hickory. Most of his work is created using hand chisels and carving gouges.

 Originally from Arkansas, Jim moved to Oak Ridge in the 1960s and worked for 30 years at the Y-12 national security facility. In addition to carving, he enjoys fly fishing and tying his own flies.