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Wood Carvings In Tinglewood With Tim Tingle

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Carving With Mr. Tingle: Orr Park

A Coal Miner Who Is Retired And Spends His Time Carving Cellophane People Out Of Wood At Orr Park In Alabama

One Of Tim's Carvings At Orr Park [Courtesy/Orr Park]

Sometimes it pays off to keep things small.  Over 15 years ago the town council of Montevallo, Alabama shot down the prospect of Wal-Mart coming to their town.  "Most of the people on the council had a small business downtown," says Shane Baugh, manager of the Parks and Recreation Department in Montevallo, "so they weren't going to let it happen."  It may have kept population from growing in Montevallo, but that is they way a lot of people like it there. 

Baugh says, "It's a pretty neat place to live."  The primary employer of the town is the University of Montevallo, a quaint liberal arts college.  Having the college there provides a big artistic presence in town.  "We have one an artist who makes cellophane sculptures," Baugh explains. "You'll be driving down the street and see a cellophane person.  Sometimes I jump a bit because I think it's a dead body."  The cellophane artist, though, is not the famous artist in this town - that belongs to a man named Tim Tingle.

Tim Tingle is an interesting man.  He was a coal miner by profession, retiring last year after 37 years, but on his off time he works with wood.  "In between jobs at the mine, I would carve," Tingle says, “I wouldn’t make anything big.”  He was born in Chattanooga, but lived almost all his life in Montevallo.  “I love this town,” Tingle says, “I’m not a city person and even when you are in town it feels rural.  Having the University here gives it a lot of culture.”  His most famous examples of carving can be seen at Orr Park in Montevallo.  "Mr. Tingle has over 40 carvings at the park," Baugh says. 

The Beautiful Nature Of Montevallo [Courtesy/Montevallo]
Tinglewood [Courtesy/Orr Park]

In 1993 there was a bad storm that downed some of the trees in Orr Park.  Tingle approached the city about getting some of the down wood to do his carving, however they refused as the park was relatively new so "I just did some carvings on the wood there without anyone knowing," Tingle says.  He completed about 6 carvings in the park.  "I didn't know if they were going to arrest me or what," Tingle chuckles.  Turns out, people really liked the carvings.  They liked them so much that they would go searching in areas of the park that were overgrown.  "The city got worried that people might sue if they got hurt by the briar or bit by a snake so they ended up cleaning it up, making the park a really nice place to be" Tingle recalls.

Now, Tingle has free reign to do as many carvings as he pleases.  He uses the dead side of old cedars and, together with chisels and a mallet, creates intricate faces and animals.  "I like when people first come to park and go around searching for the carvings," Tingle says.  Tingle uses the trees themselves to help him decide what he is going to make.  Tingle claims the faces are “pretty generic,” however people will give them names and a lot of them resemble storybook characters.  He has made dragons, wizards, Indian maidens, and more. 

Tingle likes to work on cedar, however anyone that knows about cedar knows it’s a soft wood that is pretty brittle.  Tingle carves with that in mind.  He says, “Since it’s in a public place, you know little kids are going to climb all over the carvings so I make the features broad enough to not break off.”  Still, he has had to retire a few pieces due to natural causes. 

Cellophane Person By Tim Tingle [Mike Neilson]
Lion Carving By Tim Tingle [Courtesy/Mike Neilson]
Orr Park Entrance [Courtesy/Orr Park]

Lightning struck one of the early ones and “the city didn’t even tell me about it before the hauled it all away.  They told me, though, there wasn’t anything left to save.”  Another tree cracked due to old age and the whole carving fell off so Tingle and a friend, “hauled it to the Blue Frog, a gallery in town” where it is displayed. 

Most of the carvings on the south of park are in the old trees, however the north part of the park doesn’t have many cedars so when the city cuts down an old cedar from somewhere, they give it to Tingle.  “I carve it at home and then we bring it to the park and cement it in the ground,” he says.

The park has a creek running through it, sometimes about 25-30 feet wide.  There is an island in the middle of the creek that is owned by the city.  “I have been thinking about carving on that island,” Tingle says.  HeOrr is hoping that his carvings will motivate the city to clean the island up a bit and perhaps build a bridge to it.

As for favorite carvings, both Tingle and Baugh have some.  “I like the Indian maiden with all the animals,” Baugh says, “It’s just really neat.”  Tingle has a few that he likes more than others, especially “The totem pole that has an Eagle and Turtle and other things,” Tingle says.  Visitors to the park have the opportunity to discover their own favorites as they meander down the paths and enjoy the carvings of Orr Park, better known now by its colloquial name “Tinglewood.”


Andrew Malo

A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Education, Andrew has taught for the past decade in Chicago, New Mexico, and Japan.  He  enjoys tinkering with trucks and motorcycles, woodworking, reading and computer programming.

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