t’s been said that gifted artists come into this world already possessing great talent. Such an artist was born October 30, 1922, at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Washington, D.C., in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building. His name was Charles Henry Weber.
From an early age young Charles had a deep and sincere interest in religion, spirituality, and the Bible. As a child he attended the Lutheran Church with his father. He was an avid reader, and while still a young teen he came in contact with Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. He became convinced of the truths that Adventists taught, and was particularly impressed by prophecy. Charles soon developed what became a lifelong habit of studying the Sabbath school lesson every night. It brought him much joy and comfort, and contributed to his spiritual growth.
Abraham and Isaac: This carving depicts the thankful father and son following the sacrifice of the ram.
Charles’s passion and artistic talent lay in wood carving and wood sculpting. While many gifted artists use stone, plaster, bronze, and other mediums in their creative work, fewer work with wood.
From 1945 to 1952 Charles was employed by the Review and Herald Publishing Association as a photoengraver in the company’s art and engraving departments. He then worked as a photolithographer, photoengraver, and a dot etcher for Colorgraphics in Maryland and the Lanman Company in Virginia. Dot etchers review pictures prior to their publication. Using a special magnifying glass, they examine pictures for faults and blemishes as well as for quality of color and brightness. By painstakingly removing blemishes and distractive objects and correcting the color, Charles would make changes that helped produce outstanding photos. He worked on photographs that were published in such prominent magazines as National Geographic, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Good Housekeeping, and the Saturday Evening Post,
as well as in the Time-Life
book series. The attention to detail involved in his work helped to prepare Charles for the meticulous care that wood carving demands.
After retirement in 1988 Charles had more time to devote to his passion of working with wood. During these years, until his death in July 2012, he faithfully strove to perfect his craft. The following interview with Charles’s wife of 47 years, Dolly Weber, provides a deeper insight into the artistic aspects of Charles’s life.
Gerry Karst: When did you first discover that Charles had this wonderful artistic talent?
Because of his work as a photolithographer and dot etcher, I was aware of his artistic ability when we began dating. After we married and purchased our first home, he refaced the metal cabinets; in our second home he totally remodeled the kitchen using birch wood and doubled the number of cabinets.
In addition to his carpentry work, when did Charles take up wood carving in a serious way?
The first piece of furniture he carved was a tea cart. He carved everything by hand. The spokes, the handles—everything. He also made a hope chest for daughters Shelley and Heidi.
How did he learn the art of wood carving?
Mostly on his own.
Did he take any classes?
No, but he did take a short course in sculpturing at Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Did he read books and magazines on wood carving?
Oh, yes! He subscribed to the magazine Fine Woodworking
for many years, and would also buy art books.
What was the first piece he carved?
At the age of 15 he carved the head of Sigmund Freud in wood. About the same time he also sculpted a child’s hands in plaster. He loved the look and idea of hands in prayer; it was one of his favorite subjects. He later carved a Philadelphia lowboy with a matching wall mirror frame.
What do you consider to be his crowning work?
David: Weber sculpted the head of David in clay.
A Victorian lattice table. He saw a picture of the Victorian lattice table that’s in a museum in Chicago—a magnificent piece of craftsmanship—and told me half-jokingly that he was going to carve one himself someday. Well, he did; and it is a masterpiece! He worked on the table off and on for seven years until he felt it was “just right.” It’s my favorite piece.
Charles loved to work with biblical themes. What Bible characters did he carve?
He did Samson toppling the temple pillars with a prison guard holding him by a chain. He also carved Abraham and Isaac after the sacrifice of the ram.
What was he working on when the stroke ended his career?
Madame Recamier, a French beauty. He was sitting in his rocking chair in the woodshop when he asked me to bring him his favorite art book. As we were thumbing through it, I spotted a photo of Madame Recamier, whom I’d never heard of before, but she had such a sweet, peaceful look on her face that I asked Charles if he would carve her for me. He said yes without hesitation.
Waiting for the Resurrection
On March 12, 2011, a stroke left Charles’s left side paralyzed, and he was unable to complete his carving of Madame Recamier. He had also started a clay model of Job, which too remains incomplete. On July 9, 2012, Charles closed his eyes and his life work, and now sleeps in Jesus. He had an active, inquiring mind and loved to study the Bible and probe the meanings of theology.
David in the book of Psalms praises God in many different ways. In Psalm 150:3-6 he declares, “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (NKJV).*
I would add in the case of Charles Weber, “Praise Him with works of art. Praise Him with fine wood carvings. Let all that is in Charles praise the Lord.”
* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Gerry Karst, now retired, served as a vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This article was published January 10, 2013.