Solving a woodcarving Riddle

Alex Riddle and tiki statue

SUN PHOTOS BY TOM CHANG Alex Riddle, a retired Michigan Bell Telephone manager, has carved wood for more than 70 years. Tiki statues are among his signature pieces.

ENGLEWOOD — As a young boy, Alex Riddle loved fishing but had no money to buy fishing lures so he carved his own out of wood.

Seventy years later, Alex Riddle is still carving wood.

The retired Michigan Bell Telephone manager has a workshop in his Englewood garage and sells carved animals, lighthouses and tiki statues to passersby. He has accumulated so many pieces that his wife, Barbara Waters-Riddle, told him the house was starting to look like a museum.

“I got into it because I love fishing and I didn’t have any money so I made my own fishing lures,” Riddle said.

Riddle, 77, uses X-ACTO knives because of the sharpness. He sells an assortment of figures on wooden tables he created.

Alex Riddle Jesus bust

One of Alex Riddle’s pieces is the bust of Jesus made of a walnut tree. It took him over three months to carve.

“That big walnut ( Jesus bust) over there,” Riddle said, “that was extremely difficult. It took me three months to finish.”

Riddle says he is not picky when it comes to the wood he uses to carve his sculptures. He will use downed trees, discarded branches and logs from the neighborhood, but he special orders the majority of wood he uses.

“The pointy things (busts) over there are cypress knees,” Riddle said. “They come from Louisiana. I have a supplier down there. She ships them to me. I also buy cedar and basswood.”

Riddle said he likes basswood because of its graininess and relative softness. He prefers using soft woods over hard.

Alex Riddle and carved lighthouse

Woodcarver Alex Riddle likes to carve lighthouses.

Riddle’s wife Barbara is founder of Clowns Like Us and performs under the name Nuzzles the Clown. Clowns Like Us won first place in the Rotonda Christmas Parade Dec. 1.

“Even though we’re supposed to be retired, we’re both busy,” Barbara said. “Now we can do what we want to do.”

They said they’re happy with their own pursuits but spend time doing activities together.

“We’re into road biking,” Barbara said. “We kind of feed off of each other. We have the same interests.”

Alex will be turning 78 on Christmas day.

“I do whatever feels good,” Alex said. “I get an idea for something. It pops. I sit and try to carve whatever it is.”

For more information, call Alex Riddle at 941-475-9473.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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