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Wood sculptor creates inspirational art

5:07 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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A guy in Gatlinburg got hooked on wood working years ago when he was a boy scout.

He's a wood sculptor who is now past retirement age with no plans to retire.

After a lifetime of wood sculpting, Otto Preske has carved out a niche in the Gatlinburg arts community and beyond.

"I do a lot of little figures like this. For example, this is not painted yet but this is a doctor. Ha! It's fun doing stuff like this, doing charactertures ," he said, showing a wooded figurine he made.

All of his creations start with a plan.

"Some people can pick up a piece of driftwood and say oh that looks like a duck and they can make a duck but I can't do that. I just take a plain old piece of wood and I've already figured out what I want on it before I even start," Otto Preske said.

One of his specialties is detailed fire place mantles.

He makes mostly special orders but he sells some items at his shop in Gatlinburg.

He remembers one particular conversation with a customer at his shop.

"He said what do you do with your mistakes, before I could get a word in edgewise he asked me that. I pointed to my wood burning stove. He said, boy I wish I could do that to mine. I said what to you do and he said I'm an orthopedic surgeon," he said, laughing.

While his custom-made mantels grace fireplaces all over, his spiritual creations inspire people in churches across the country and right here in East Tennessee.

"I call myself an ecumenical carver. I've done stuff for all kinds of churches. In my picture book there I've got a Last Supper carving that went to a Baptist church up in New Jersey and I did the Last Supper and the Altar over at Holy Cross in Pigeon Forge that the Bishop used for his ordination," he said.

Over the years Otto Preske learned the key to success.

"Have a lot of patience and have a desire to do it," he said.

That desire keeps him going and the 71 year old has no plans to quit.

"A lot of people retire and take up wood carving as a hobby. I tell them what am I going to do when I retire? Sell insurance? Ha! I'll just keep carving," he said.

He'll keep carving and sharing his talent with folks in East Tennessee and across the country.

He said, "Talent is a gift from God and everybody's got some kind of talent. Talent is a gift from God and what we do with it is a gift back to Him."

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