Groton on the Inside: Who’s carving that wood on Peruville Road?

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For anyone who may travel to or from Groton via Route 34B/Peruville Road, it is highly likely that you have at some point noticed a lot of large logs, sawdust, and an assortment of carved wooden animals right on the corner of Peruville and Brown Road. I know I began noticing them myself during the summer of 2018.


I always knew, having lived here for the past 39 years, that the property there belongs to Ray and Julie Volbrecht, and that Ray operated a lumber mill for most of those years, so it was a natural assumption that what was going on there with the wood was probably connected to said business in some way – wasn’t it? Had Ray taken up wood carving? The speculation in my mind was endless.


As the months went on, it became a daily habit every single time I drove by to look and see if the same carvings were still there, which ones were suddenly gone, which new carvings had been started, and all the while becoming more and more curious as to who was carving them – yet for the longest time, I never seemed to see anyone there at the times I went by.


I can’t be alone in this. I would guess there are a number of Peruville Road travelers out there who have wondered many of the same things I have, and I finally found the answer!


Admittedly, I discovered a partial answer when I ran into Julie Volbrecht in a local restaurant one night a few months ago. She told me then that it wasn’t Ray carving, but that they had offered the use of that corner of their property to a long-time customer of theirs, and that he was the artist behind it all.
After that, I kept looking for him, and last week I hit pay dirt, or should I say, “pay sawdust”? As I drove by on my way to the grocery store, I saw him! I stopped, parked my car, jumped out with my pen, paper, and camera, and finally met Eduard Atayan – wood-carving artisan extraordinaire!


Although a bit reserved at first, Atayan was happy to share his love for his craft with me. He was born and raised in Armenia and began to learn to carve as a young 12-year-old boy. He attended art school at age 14, which Atayan said was common in his country, and there further honed his skills as he learned to carve with chisels.


Atayan attended Civil Engineering College in Armenia but also spent as much of his free time as possible there in the woodworking shop on campus because he loves to do it so much. He met and married his wife in 1997 and moved here to America in 1998.


At first, Atayan struggled a bit with the language barrier, but when someone steered him in the direction of Volbrecht Lumber to buy his wood, Ray Volbrecht found a way to understand what Atayan wanted to buy and what he wanted to do with it.


Like Atayan, Volbrecht also grew up working with wood, but in a bit of a different way. Volbrecht’s father, Richard, and his uncles Marshall and Arnold Volbrecht, owned and operated Volbrecht Lumber in South Lansing for years until it was sold in 1970 when Richard passed away. Ray learned how to log and mill lumber as a young boy.


Ray worked at NV Lumber for a while before deciding to go into business for himself purchasing local logs and milling it into lumber. He married Julie in 1981. They were both alumni of Groton High School and knew each other in school but re-connected as adults.


Atayan has been purchasing his carving logs from Volbrecht for 21 years now, so when the idea came up almost two years ago for Atayan to use some of Volbrecht’s space to do his carving, it just naturally fell into place for him.
I asked Atayan if he uses any particular wood to carve with, and he said “pine” without hesitation. Although he does carve some things out of other wood, he prefers the softness of pine for the intricate work he does.


In his first seven years in America, he continued to carve with chisels, but the more he attended competitions and auctions around the country, he began to make friends with other carvers, many of whom carve with chainsaws. By 2005, Atayan began using a chainsaw also.


Just as it was when he was a young child, Atayan said he loves to use every spare minute he can find to carve because he “just loves to do it” and he especially loves to meet and be around other carvers at the various auctions and competitions he attends so he can learn from them and see the work they are producing.


Atayan does sell his pieces, but that is not his focus, he just loves carving! Nonetheless, he does have a website: atayanwoodcarving.com, and an email address atayaneduard@gmail.com, and if you visit his site, you will see so much more than the animals on Peruville Road!

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or 607-227-4922.

In brief:

Groton Clean-up Day
The Town and Village of Groton will hold a clean-up day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11 at the Town Gravel Bank on Spring Street Extension (north side). This is for town and village residents only and ID will be required.
Only specific items will be taken free of charge: washing machines, dryers, water heaters, stoves, grills, other metal items, porcelain sinks, and toilets.
They will not accept refrigerators, microwaves, televisions, or other electronics. For a $5 charge, limit one per household, they will accept chairs, sofas, and recliners.


This event is sponsored by the Intermunicipal Cooperation of the Town of Groton Highway Department and the Village of Groton Department of Public Works.

Groton Information Kiosk
The Groton Information Kiosk is now up and running and accepting fliers. There is a mailbox on the back side to place your information in. Please put a date on the back for when the event is over so it can be removed. This is the only place to drop off fliers, and the kiosk will be maintained by a volunteer. Preference will be given to Groton fliers if space is limited. No political fliers, want ads, or offensive material will be posted.

Calling all crafters
Groton Olde Home Days 2019 will be here before we know it, August 23-25, and the committee is looking now for vendors to join the annual Craft and Collectible show on Saturday, Aug. 24. Please visit the website for the vendor application: grotonoldehomedays.com.Questions can be emailed to grotonoldehomedays@aol.com.

Free community meal
At the Groton Public Library on May 21, the community is invited to a free meal of baked ravioli with a choice of meat or veggie. Beverages will also be provided. The meal will be served starting at 6 p.m.

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