I am SO VERY GLAD that Steve and I had an opportunity to meet, to talk with, and to watch Ira Chaffin in action last May in Birmingham. We spent two nights in one of the B & B’s owned by Chaffin and his wife Sheila and learned that he was a renowned sculptor who even had a Carousel Carving School in the basement of the inn where we were staying. Furthermore, he welcomed visitors!
We saw him in action with one of his students and listened as he told how the process of carving a carousel animal takes place.
And the room upstairs where we were staying had some of his most opulent finished pieces on display in the bay window.
Ira mentioned that he often hosts homeschool groups and Boy Scout troops who are interested in his craft, so naturally that led to one of our favorite topics — our 12 grandchildren. He quickly agreed to host us for a couple of hours during the coming summer’s Cousins Camp, and we set a date. A couple of days before we were to arrive (and before we realized we’d have to postpone Cousins Camp because of my dad’s illness), Sheila Chaffin called to tell us that Ira wouldn’t be able to meet the children after all because he was in the hospital. I told her that we certainly understood and would plan a time in the future.
Sadly, when we finally WERE able to plan Cousins Camp for the week before Thanksgiving, I received a heart-breaking reply from my inquiry about scheduling a visit. Ira died of inoperable pancreatic cancer on September 5, 2016.
Ira had a rare skill. Very few people have the ability he had to make blocks of wood come alive. And his was one of only 4 carving schools in the United States. One of his quotes that I loved was: “It takes approximately an hour to learn to carve wood. But it takes a lifetime to learn to be a good decision maker.” Obviously, once something is carved away, it can’t be replaced. So, Mr. Chaffin knew and taught others to do plenty of planning before carving.
It is still possible, of course, to see examples of Ira Chaffin’s work. Mrs. Chaffin continues to operate two B & B’s in the Five Points area of Birmingham. The location is near several top-rated restaurants and the inns’ architecture and decor are remarkable. Sheila is a gracious hostess who loves to talk about the history and details of her properties.
Steve and I see so many amazing sights on this travel writing journey, but by far, our favorite part is getting to meet fascinating people all along the way.