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Local woodmaker carves out Santa niche

Local woodmaker carves out Santa niche
Local woodmaker Howard Yates has created more than 60 Santa pieces that will go on sale in December.

Southern Ohio Today

When it comes to an old-fashioned Christmas, finding just the right gift for someone special often requires heartfelt ideas or homemade delicacies.

From craft shows to local vendors, Chillicothe welcomes a new craftsman of more than one trade.  

Howard Yates, a Kenworth Truck Company Quality Assurance Inspector of nearly 29 years, never thought his life was anything out of the ordinary. Married to his wife, Beth, for 27 years, Yates is a Ross County native and graduate of Southeastern High School.

After serving in the army for three years and beginning his work at Kenworth, Yates also found a fascination with art. Dabbling in drawing and painting from his graphic design studies at Ohio University-Chillicothe in the mid-1980s, Yates began to explore.

“I always shied away from three-dimensional art; sculpting, carving, etc. My brain didn’t seem to work that way,” Yates said. “But one day, I watched a video about a woodcarver and thought it looked fun. I brought up the idea to Beth, and she was stunned. I had always told her that I never wanted anything to do with three-dimensional art.”

Fueling his dreams with ambition, Yates credits Beth for her ingenuity and encouragement. 

“She’s the one who gave me the idea to start carving old-world Santas,” Yates said. 

While Yates originally intended to carve a hillbilly with a pocket knife and a shard of wood, his completion of old-world Santas gained traction.

“After practice, I finished a Santa tree ornament, and Beth ordered me some good carving knives and good blocks of wood,” Yates said. 

Replicating Santa figures he found online, Yates then developed his style and designs once he realized he could carve.

“I’m afraid my story is quite boring. But what can you expect from a guy who gets excited about whittling?” he laughed.

Completing his first Santa in April of 2019, Yates notes that Santas are all he’s carved ever since, and each one presents a chance to learn something new. 

“Every year, I work hard throughout the year to carve enough pieces to present and sell at a “Merry and Bright Holiday Event,” said Yates. He hopes this year’s event can take place at The Sunroom At The Brick in Frankfort on Dec. 1 from 4-7 p.m.

Last year, Yates took 33 carvings and sold all but four in the first 20 minutes of the show.

“This year, I plan to take at least 65 pieces with most of them being new designs (I will have a few favorites from last year as well),” Yates said.

From QA manufacturing to quality pieces of art, Yates enjoys the process of making something new and making a difference in the lives of those who choose to treasure his pieces.

“I enjoy the process of taking a simple block of wood and watching it transform into something someone will value enough to display in their home,” he said. “I’m honored and humbled by those who have told me that they leave theirs out throughout the year.”

For more information on Yates pieces or additional works of art that will be featured at this year’s “Merry and Bright Holiday Event,” visit “Merry and Bright a Holiday Event” on Facebook. 

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