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Ryan first became interested in carving when he was very young. When he was only seven, he had his very own pocket knife that he had found in the dirt and kept hidden from his parents. Ryan and the neighbor kids would sit in the shade during long summer days and carve bark that they pried off of the family pine tree. He began carving seriously while he was earning his master’s degree in opera at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Ryan carved on his own for the first five years or so. His best tools were snap-off razor blades because “they always had a sharp point.” After too many snap-off accidents, he upgraded to Xacto knives and ground-off steak knives.
One of Ryan’s greatest experiences in carving was his first carving class at the Idaho Woodcarver’s rendezvous with one of his heroes and fellow CCA carver, Cleve Taylor. After studying with Cleve, he caught on fire and his carving began to improve. Since then, he has studied with Dave Stetson, Dave Dunham, Phil and Vicki Bishop, Pete Leclair, and repeatedly with Marv Kaisersatt. His philosophy on carving is “Good carving is just like good singing. You have to work at it a little every day and you have to learn from the best.”
Two years ago, Ryan won second best of show with his “Do I Have a Volunteer?” in the CCA competition. Last year, he took second best of show with “It’s Over!” and in 2011, he earned best of show with “Opera Man.” That award along with being invited to join the CCA and singing with Chris Hammack and his guitar are some of the greatest honors he has ever had.
Ryan stays busy performing Opera and teaching middle school choir and orchestra. He has also been teaching opera at Boise state university for the last 10 years. Ryan, his wife, and their four children, live in Melba, Idaho.
His advice to caricature carvers is “You don’t have to carve cowboys. Carve what you know and love!”