The People:
Nolan Beaver

Nolan Beaver

Nolan Beaver (1916-1998) studied at the Folk School under Murray Martin in the mid-thirties.  Nolan, a man full of infectious enthusiasm, inspired his mother, sisters, and brothers to take up the art of carving.  “My Dad didn’t carve but sanded our finished work.”  Throughout his life’s work he utilized his carving skills working for auto tire companies carving plaster molds that required six thousands of an inch tolerance, was a cabinet maker and created mock-ups and finish work for airplane cabins.  “I’ve always worked with my hands.”

Nolan specializes in miniatures and has developed into one the Folk School’s most imaginative and finest carvers.  He paid six cents for his first pocket knife and fashioned a small log cabin with a miniature rail fencing.  “I wanted toys, so I made them...I also made rabbit traps.”  His first carving was a squirrel on a base, and his first sale consisted of seven squirrels at 35 cents each; that bought him a pair of boot pants and a ticket to the movies.

Nolan works in various sizes, but is best known for his finely carved thumbnail miniatures that possess phenomenal detail.  He works mostly in holly, walnut, and apple; his subject matter is vast and ranges from horse and rider, steers, tiny domestic and farm animals, to wildlife.  “Most anything is interesting to carve...my most difficult is a man on horseback; I like to work on things that make it hard on me.”  He goes on to state that human faces, their character and age always present a challenge that continues to excite him. 

- Transcribed from John C. Campbell Folk School, The Brasstown Carvers (1990),
with text by Bill Biggers, photographs by Werner Kahn and Bill Biggers.
Used with permission of the John C. Campbell Folk School.