About Tom Zarle
During and after a 40 year career in academia as a professor of psychology and a university president Zarle was able to spend some time in the mountains – specifically the Ozark and Appalachian highlands -- where he had the opportunity to study with a couple of “mountain men” professional carvers. Those skills coupled with and influenced by the carving techniques of his Swedish father-in-law (who introduced him to the craft) have resulted in his own “folk carving” style (that is a blend of “Scandinavian flat plane” and “folk style” (from the influence of his mountain experience). Flat plane carving originated in Sweden and Norway during the “Viking” era and was used to decorate Viking ships and wooden Stave Churches. Scandinavian carving represents a style of carving in which the carver’s knife and gouge marks are purposely left on the carvings to accent the rough and unique character of the carving.
Unhappily, this style of carving is fast becoming a “dying art” – even in the Scandinavian countries. As with many “traditions,” as the “old timers” die off and the demand for productivity increases, new generations are not quick to take up where earlier craftsmen have left off. Zarle’s efforts along with a few others represent a renaissance of this particular craft.
Zarle’s carvings are generally human caricatures carved in Basswood (Linden wood) and painted with acrylics or stained – definitely “one of a kind” and unique. Adoption of his wife’s Swedish heritage and their frequent travels through the Scandinavian countries has influenced his carving style and reinforced his interests. Many of his favorite subjects include Scandinavian country folk figures such as elves, various forms of the Jul Tomte, Old World Santa’s and traditional favorites such as trolls, gnomes, folk characters associated with various holidays (e.g., St. Lucia festival figures, etc.), Scandinavian country folk, etc. Other subjects include golfers, baseball players, runners – even dogs, cats and his own style of Scandinavian horses.
“Scandinavian Hemslojd” was chosen as the name for his carving interest because the literal English translation of Hemslojd from the Swedish means “handicraft: often using wood.”
He is a member of the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association where he serves on the Board, the Southern Appalachian Artists' Guild, the Mountain Regional Arts and Crafts Guild and the National Woodcarvers Association.