AKWESASNE, Ontario – Ben Benedict of Cornwall Island has been working with wood his whole adult life. In his 30s, he found a passion for creating art out of wood carvings. Now, at the age of 61, Benedict has competed and won top prizes throughout North America for his art and has entered the rarefied air of the Masters Class of carvers.
Benedict was in Ocean City, Maryland, United States from April 26 to the 28 for the 49th annual Ward World Championship. At the event, he was competing in the Advanced Division H for Interpretive Wood Sculpture. Benedict took home first place in that Division, which propelled him into the Masters Class.
The piece Benedict created is a raven carved from a single piece of black walnut. He says it took three months for him to carve and shape the piece into the prize winning artwork that it became.
This is the second time that Benedict has placed first in this Division at the Ward World Championship. He says that usually, he does not go back to the same competition after taking first place.
Benedict began working with wood at the age of 13 when his father bought the lacrosse stick factory on Cornwall Island from the family of his future wife. It was that age that he carved his first wooden duck.
“We were carving the heads of lacrosse sticks and everything was hand carved,” he said. “The more you do it, the better you’re gonna be.”
As he got older, Benedict found a passion for the artistry of wood carving.
“It’s a stress reliever,” he said. “It is an art. It gives me the ability to create and it is endless what you can do.”
Benedict explained that sometimes he is out working in his wood shop until two or three in the morning.
Benedict’s three grandsons go to the show with him every year. He says that right now they are practicing with soap, but want to start making woodcarvings of their own soon.
For Benedict, the next step is to take on the World Class.
“My goal next year is to compete in the Best in the World and Masters,” he said. “So I better start carving.”