Artisans United Gallery and Shop
4022 Hummer Road
Annandale, VA 22003
Tuesday - Saturday 10 am to 4 pm
(Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. (Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.)
MEET THE ARTISAN: Bob Simoniz
Ye Old Toymaker and Wood Carver
Bob Simoniz first started in crafts after graduating from Virginia Tech and marring his wife Maureen in 1968. He began with leathercraft and placed items in a consignment store in Crystal City near where he worked for the Naval Sea Systems Command. One day the owner asked if he could make wooden toys since she was having problems with her current artisan. That set Bob on the path to creating numerous toys over a period of several years.
During this period he made furniture for his family and eventually for friends. When he bought their current home in 1976, he finished off the lower level adding a family room and two bedrooms managing the construction and wiring himself. Later he added a garage and built a 14x16 addition. With the exception of pouring the foundation, Bob and his wife designed and provided all the labor. When Bob was in college, he worked summers as a helper for an Electrical Construction Company in Lynchburg, VA where he learned the electrical trade.
Over the years of building furniture, Bob always wanted to try wood carving. In 1989, he finally bought a kit and carved a very rough Santa which he still has. Until about 15 years ago, his main carvings were Santa's and snowmen for personal Christmas gifts (usually between 11-15 gifts a year). After taking a class on chip carving with Barry McKenzie, Bob began carving icicles as Christmas gifts. His next door neighbor was ordering 35 for gifts each Christmas.
Then he added Welsh Lovespoons. Lovespoons have been made and given for about 350 years. The earliest example dates to 1667 and can be seen in the Welch Museum in Cardiff although the majority on exhibit date to the 18th and 19th century. They are ornately carved spoons made from a single piece of wood and given by a young suitor as a love token to show his intentions. Tradition has it that the spoon was equivalent to a proposal of marriage. Numerous symbols can be carved into a single spoon expressing the entwining of lives forever, the intention to support her, the number of children envisioned, fidelity, and eternal happiness are but a few. Bob says that he has carved some complex love spoons just for the challenge. Now they are a labor of love.
Seven years ago, Bob took another class on medium relief carving taught by John Engler who lives in Battlefield, MO and is the top medium relief carving instructor. Relief carving is complicated as you simulate depth using perspective and by carving at angles to each layer. Some carvings have as many as 7 layers. After a second class with John, he had a better grasp of relief carving, but still not fully comfortable with the carving aspects. It wasn’t until he took on a relief carving of the Mount Vernon Mansion that he finally understood the concept.
Bob has been volunteering at Mount Vernon Estate for almost 12 years since his retirement from the Naval Sea Systems Command after 40+ years. He has carved reliefs of the Mansion, a carving of 3 of the stills in the Distillery, head miller engaging the gears in the basement of the Mill and three carvings for the Mount Vernon Fifer. This past year Bob was commissioned to carve the emblem of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association which now hangs outside the Administrative Offices at Mount Vernon.
Three years ago, he donated a 16x24 walnut framed relief carving of the Mansion to the George Washington Birth Night Ball and Silent Auction. He is very committed to Mount Vernon and has donated almost 3500 volunteer hours. When the Grist Mill and Distillery are open, you will usually find him on Sundays carving and greeting tourists. He also volunteer drives for Mount Vernon and has driven almost all of the Vice Regents that run Mount Vernon. He has also driven a number of prominent authors including three Pulitzer Prize Winners.
Bob belongs to the Northern Virginia Carvers and is the Membership Chairman and Newsletter Editor.
In 2012, Bob started selling carvings at Eldercrafters in Alexandria. Soon the director asked him if he could make toys. After a 35 year absence from that field, Bob began making toys once again. He has also supplied toys to A Show of Hands in Delray and Miss Betty’s Emporium in Front Royal. Currently he has many on display and for sale at the Artisans United Gallery here in Annandale.
Bob’s 40 years as a Toy Maker has brought him great joy. He uses different woods and non-toxic acrylic paints or leaves them natural. The toys are held together with glue and/or dowels. He does not use any nails in constructing them. Bob is always looking to make sure nobody will get hurt with the toys. Toys range from pull toys to trains, trucks, airplanes and cars.
Support this Gallery as it is the last home to artisan wares in Annandale. We should all seek to protect their heritage and survival.
Buying Tip: Become a member of the Craft Gallery for the small donation of $25. This will entitle you to a 10% discount on all Gallery purchases for an entire year. AU Friends also receive notice of each new show and special event. You will quickly make your $25 back in purchase savings while preserving the last Art Space in Annandale
Reproduction of this article or photographs requires the written permission of the author and The ENDEAVOR News Magazine. Photographs are courtesy of the author with all right of use reserved. (Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. (Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.)