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Alumni Profile: Charles Hunt,'57, '64

Alumni Profile: Charles Hunt,'57, '64

Industrial arts alumnus is a multitalented folk artist

Posted: November 15, 2017

Charles Hunt, ’57, MS ’64, carved his first wooden creation, a neckerchief slide, using an old straight razor to earn a new badge as an Eagle Scout. Little did he know at the time this would lead to an award-winning and lifetime hobby.

Hunt is a self-taught master carver, folk artist, and retired industrial arts teacher from Elma, NY, who has received international recognition for his imaginative creations. His work is expansive: Christmas ornaments, folk toys, mallards, the gazebo in his backyard—the majority of his pieces are designed fireplace mantels, doors and other architectural details.

Hunt continued wood carving as an adult to help decorate his first apartment. As his inspiration grew, so did his collection.

His most labor-intensive and detailed piece is a scaled version of the 1915 Herschell-Spillman carousel that was located in Olcott Beach on Lake Ontario. “It wasn’t an easy task at times, but I just kept going,” said Hunt, who at 87, still regularly makes carvings for his family, friends, and collectors across the country."

According to Hunt, a friend challenged him to the task of recreating a miniature Herschell carousel in 1980. Hunt, who has always loved a challenge, traveled to Olcott to take extensive measurements of the real carousel. He spent two years on the research, planning, and design.

Hunt created a miniature replica of a Herschell-Spillman carousel that had a long-standing exhibit in the Fisher-Price Museum. 

“Sometimes I look back at what I created and I ask, “How did I ever do that?” said Hunt, who created 26 duplicates of the carousel’s horses, chariots, figures, and animals. 

Later came the motor, tent, and sound box.

The fully-operational carousel is a 40-inch replica of the 40-foot original, created almost exactly to scale. Hunt said that although he learned how to carve through imitation (he never completed a formal carving class), the project was especially difficult because he could compare his work with a life-size version.

The carousel had a longstanding exhibit at the Fisher-Price Toy Town Museum in East Aurora. Today, the carousel is in Hunt’s family home and in the room beside his first woodshop.

His work is featured in the Elma Town Hall, and a scaled version of a carousel tiger—which closely resembles a Bengal tiger—will be displayed in the Buffalo State Jacqueline LoRusso Alumni and Visitor Center when it opens next summer.

Hunt, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial arts education, taught high school mechanical drafting for 30 years before retiring. While wood carving is his first passion, teaching allowed him to see others learn experientially.

"The main reason I enjoyed [teaching] was because the students were hands-on. I never once failed a kid,” he said. Hunt adds that although draftsmanship has evolved because of computerization, he believes that everyone should learn technical drawing by hand first: “I always told my students to develop skills before going to the computer.

Hunt said he wanted his courses to be practical and relevant. “I wanted to teach drafting because it was a class where I could see the students gain a sense of accomplishment in a skill that would be useful to them.

He said teaching came naturally to him—although many would say his true natural gift is wood carving.  

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