by Bethany Mitros
Mark Bair and Stacey Schofield’s quiet property on Kings Highway in Audubon holds a secret. Behind their home lies an enchanting studio where the couple, who have been married for three-and-a-half-years craft imaginative folk art out of wood.
Their remarkably detailed pieces are carved one at a time using hand tools and traditional techniques. “We use very little machinery,” explained Bair, who taught himself to carve 20 years ago.
A decade ago, he was able to devote himself to the craft full time. Last year, Schofield left her job as a special education teacher in Haddonfield to work alongside him as an artist.
“I needed a change and Mark needed help,”Schofield explained. “It’s a lot of fun. We’ve been on quite the journey together. It’s very peaceful having the studio in the backyard. It’s a labor of love for both of us.”
Bair’s carvings have been sold up and down the East Coast at craft fairs from Bar Harbor, Maine to Key West, Florida and are likely displayed around the world, he said. These days, however, the pair tries to stick to fairs in the tristate area and online sales.
They also do plenty of commission work and are currently working on a large carving of a farrier. Other regular carvings include beer taps and holiday items.
Bair also carves wood spirits, which he said date back to the 15th century when people believed that a tree was a living thing (it is, noted Bair), and if they carved a face into the tree, it would bring the tree’s spirit to life and it would watch out for them.
He does not do on-site carvings of woodspirits, but he has many portable options for those who want to display them on a door or in the yard.
Schofield does a lot of finish work, including painting and wood burning. “She’s quite talented in her own right,”he explained.
Bair is a master artisan with thePennsylvania Guild of Craftsman and he participates in their mentoring program.“We want to try and keep the crafts alive. A lot of crafters have this illusion that they will be making things all the time, but we spend as much time trying to sell and market our items as we do making them,” said Bair. He also teaches woodcarving classes at his studio or other sites as requested.
Next month, The M.D. Bair Woodcarving Studio will host its third annual open studio on Saturday, Nov. 16 from 2 to 9 p.m.Everyone is welcome to visit the studio and meet Bair and Schofield over light refreshments. They will have gifts for every budget with art as low as $25 and as much as $1,000. “We have something for everyone,” said Schofield. “We don’t want people to feel intimidated. We want everybody to come away with something they want.”
“I was a corporate sales rep for 30-some years and I was never happy. Now I’m as happy as can be,” said Bair.
TheM.D. Bair Woodcarving Studio is located at 353 W. Kings Highway in Audubon. For more information, visit mdbairstudio.com. ©The Retrospect 2019.