Local carver finds artistic and commercial success despite 2020 challenges
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RIGBY — What started off as simple whittling at scout camp as a child, turned into a full-time career for one eastern Idahoan.
Aaron Barrett grew up in Alaska, sketching and drawing wildlife and the great outdoors, before eventually moving to the Gem State and attending Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.
After graduating, one of Barrett’s mentors offered him a job working in his carving studio. Here, Barrett fell in love with the craft, ultimately learning to carve his art into wood, stone, and bones.
Eventually, he was able to open his own shop called Stone Bear.
Compared to traditional art, Barrett believes carving is easier.
“With carving, you can just carve it how it is,” Barrett told EastIdahoNews.com. He explained you don’t have to worry about shading or lighting — the 3D aspect of carving does all of that for you.
Since starting his business in Rigby, much of Barrett’s work has been selling large wholesale shipments of carvings to his home state of Alaska for tourist shops. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions put in place by both the United States and Canada, tourist levels in Alaska have dropped significantly.
Barrett’s spirits haven’t dropped, though. He credits most of that to his wife, Debbie Barrett.
“Honestly, for me, it hasn’t been that hard because of all the work my wife has done,” he said.
This year, Debbie has put in a lot of work to help Stone Bear’s online store become more operational. The changes allow people to directly buy hand-carved items, compared to just selling them wholesale. Many of the products that are sold are created from fossilized walrus jawbones, or from horns or antlers harvested in Alaska.
Even though these individual sales are different from the work Barrett usually does, the personal jobs are the ones he prefers.
“I get to be more creative,” he said. “When you carve something 1,000 times, it’s easy to do that thing faster. It can be so interesting and fun for people to do something they have never done before.”
Those in the Idaho Falls area can see Barrett’s work in person at the Eagle Rock Gallery at 315 River Pkwy.
Individuals can see more photos and purchase his work from the Stone Bear website. There is a contact us section where you can propose ideas of what you would like personally carved. Messages can also be sent through the company’s Facebook or Instagram pages.
Though this year has been difficult for everyone, both Aaron and Debbie Barrett are happy they have been able to continue doing the work they love at Stone Bear.