If you drove down the 2400 block of Cub Hill Road between June 7-14, you were probably privy to the momentary traffic jams caused by a man carving an eagle statue out of a tree stump.
Maybe you waved, maybe you were one of those people who drove by every day to see the progress; maybe, if you were one of the passersby who stopped to talk, you met Jim Calder Jr.
The woodcarver was recently hired by homeowner Tom Pannone to turn the tall stump of a poplar tree into a sculpture of a bald eagle keeping watch over the entrance to his driveway.
"This is going to be great for the neighborhood," said Pannone. "It's quite the attraction now, but I hope his work is here for a long time. It's better than I ever imagined."
Before Calder finished, he was attracting fans. A couple from Owings Mills, Jerry and Barbara Abramson, made a long commute three times during the course of the carving process to watch Calder work.
"I think the man is a genius," said Barbara Abramson. "We wanted to see the finished product—the first time we drove by, we were impressed."
Given Calder's success, Abramson is not alone in her assessment of his skills.
Calder now mostly resides in Chesapeake, VA. or, as he puts it, "on top of a mountain" in western North Carolina — but make no mistake about it, the trip that has taken him to Greece, Italy, Washington D.C. and around the United States as a woodcarver began right down the street in Carney.
It was in his childhood home on Ontario Avenue that Calder first took up the carver's hammer and chisel—he went to Parkville Junior High School, and graduated from Perry Hall High School.
"I've been carving all my life," said Calder, 62.
It was a long time before his childhood hobby became his career, though.
Out of high school, he joined the Navy and served the country for three years in Vietnam before he said he was accepted to college at Harvard—a stint that didn't last long before Calder decided to pursue engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to work in that field.
One day, though, he came to a realization: "I didn't want to get old and fat behind a desk," Calder said.
He decided to leave behind the engineering world and a comfortable salary to do the thing he loved.
"My boss thought I was crazy when I walked in there and told him I was gonna be a woodcarver," Calder said.
It didn't take him long to make money in that field, either.
Calder said around 1982 or 1983, at a friend's insistence, he took 1,000 small figurines he'd carved over the course of his life and attached corks to their bases, intending to sell them as bottle stoppers at a wine festiva.
"I wanted to sell them at $20 each," Calder said. "My friend told me to sell them for $40, and by the end of that festival I had a tub full of cash."
It was $40,000 to be exact. From that point he never looked back.
"This used to be my hobby," Calder said smiling. "Now it's how I make my living. If you don't like your job, find something you love and do it."
To Calder, though, it's not about the money—it's about the satisfaction he gets from doing something that you love. To watch him work, it's clear that he is still somewhat in awe of his own skill.
"I sure am, and I think the day that I stop will be the day I stop carving," he said. "This is just too much fun."
Carving, he said, came easy to him—he started working wood at 7 years old, and art is something that runs in his family; he is the "great-great-great-great-grand nephew" of Alexander Calder, a famous sculptor and painter.
"Everything I do I love," Calder said.
But his crowning achievement was winning an international carving competition in Livorno, Italy—for that show, he carved a set of doors depicting Chinese monks participating in the rites of spring which now reside in a private collection.
In addition to giving new life to dead trees, Calder also inspires children to learn the art of woodcarving. He co-wrote a children's book called "So You Thought You Couldn't Cut It?" that will be out in August through the Young Voices Foundation, and regularly holds clinics in which he uses sweet potatoes to teach the art of woodcarving.
"The most fun I have is—wherever I go—I try to teach the kids to carve with sweet potatoes," Calder said.
"If you teach kids about art at a young enough age, hopefully they grow to appreciate it. If that happens even once, it's worth it."