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Biography

Peter was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and has been a Floridian since the age of ten.  He served four years in the air force during the Vietnam War working on jet fighters, and was honorably discharged as a sergeant.  He worked in a couple of occupations, all the while developing as an artist, and at times he was able to work full-time at sculpting.   Eventually he wanted his "day job" to be something meaningful that he would really enjoy doing, so he decided that helping people would be that job.  This led to him graduating from the University of South Florida at 53, and the last years of his day job were very gratifying years spent helping people with special needs. 

 

These days, Peter is grateful and thrilled to be able to give his art work his undivided attention.

 

Peter's first carving was a chess set carved out of balsa wood with X-ACTO tools in the early 70s, done on a whim.  It's the chess set in the photo above.  He learned the hard way that smart people don’t carve balsa wood and that there are much better tools than X-ACTO makes for carving wood.  He was truly self-taught and carved several projects entirely on his own for about eight years without any knowledge that organized woodcarving even existed.  That was in the days before computers.


In the late 70s he joined the Suncoast Woodcarvers located in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida and started attending their monthly meetings.  Peter's main subject of interest has always been the challenge
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of sculpting realistic human faces in wood.  The members of his local carving club were all very helpful, but there just wasn't a single member who carved realistic human faces who was able to help him.
 
Now, there’s an old saying that goes something like this:  “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”  Well, that’s exactly what happened to Peter.  Just when woodcarving had become more frustration than fun, along came the late sculptor and master woodcarver, Ken Pacetti, into Peter’s life.   It was the spring of 1979 and Pacetti had just recently returned from graduating at the top of his class at the Bavarian State School for Sculpture and Woodcarving in Oberammergau, Germany.  Pacetti and Peter hit it off immediately and started what was to become a thirty year long mentoring friendship.  Peter spent many a weekend driving across the state to spend time with Pacetti in his St. Augustine studio.  Pacetti shared with Peter the many things he learned in Oberammergau; not just how to hold and sharpen tools and the best ways to do a carving, but things like how improving one’s drawing ability and working in clay significantly improves one’s carvings of realistic human faces.  These two like-minded sculptors remained fast friends up until Ken’s passing in 2009. 
 
Being able to work with and ask questions of an Oberammergau-trained sculptor and master woodcarver accelerated Peter’s carving skills considerably as you might imagine.  It wasn’t very long before the members of the Suncoast Woodcarvers noticed Peter’s rapid improvement in his carvings that led him to take a leadership role within the club.  As a result, he became the Show Chairman, Vice-President and President of this carving club over several years time in the early to mid 80s.  
 
In 1983, Peter was offered a position by St. Petersburg College as an adjunct instructor to teach a class called Sculpting Faces in Wood.  He taught this popular class to several hundred woodcarvers on the west coast of Florida over a six year span on three campuses and two off-campus sites.  
 
The fall of 1987 found Peter working full time as a sculptor and woodcarver, taking commissions and participating in Florida fine art shows on both coasts.  It was October when Emma Taylor, the Director of Programs and Special Events for the Florida State Fair Authority, contacted him and asked him to set up and coordinate an annual woodcarving competition and exhibition for the state fair for the spring of 1988.  Peter wrote the rules and regulations for this first ever competition and fair exhibit, selected and supervised three judges each year, and coordinated the volunteers and people needed to run this highly popular exhibit.  If Peter’s name sounds familiar, it is because he also wrote two to three articles a year that were published in Chip Chats, the carving magazine put out by the National Wood Carvers Association, distributed around the world, for the eleven year span that Peter worked for the Florida State Fair Authority as their Woodcarving Competition and Exhibit Coordinator.
 
Late in 1987, Peter received further recognition of his carving skills.  E.J. Tangerman was an American woodcarver who was one of the people instrumental in founding organized woodcarving in America.  In 1936 he wrote one of the pioneer books in America on the subject of woodcarving, titled Whittling and Woodcarving.  Tangerman also wrote a regular feature for many years in Chip Chats called “Tangents” that perhaps some older woodcarvers may remember reading.  Tangerman, who years earlier was made an honorary member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen International of the United Kingdom for his contribution to world woodcarving, nominated Peter for membership in this most prestigious guild in December of 1987.  Peter was accepted as an American member into the Guild of Master Craftsmen International on February 1, 1988, and remains one of less than a dozen Americans to have ever been nominated to this guild.

In the many subsequent years he has had numerous art gallery exhibitions and he has also participated in fine art shows throughout Florida. 

These days Peter is mainly focused on instructing wood carving and working on his face sculptures and occasionally participating in local art shows.
 
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 © Copyright Peter Newton 2014