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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Glen VanAntwerp holding a carved cedar fan
Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo of one of Glen VanAntwerp's carved cedar fan
Photo by Al Kamuda

Photo of Glen VanAntwerp's hand carving a cedar fan
Photo by Al Kamuda

Glen VanAntwerp
2001 awardee, Tustin (Osceola County), cedar fan carver

Cedar-fan carving is an old and widespread tradition of using only a simple knife and a single block of cedar wood to create delicate fans. Immigrants from northern Europe first brought the technique to Michigan and other parts of the United States. Some of these immigrants worked as lumberjacks, and it was in the lumber camps, during long winter nights of storytelling and whittling, that the art of fan carving spread and developed.

Glen VanAntwerp's connection with cedar fans begins with this lumber camp era. His great-great-grandfather settled in northern Michigan where, as a young man, he worked as a lumberjack. Later, Glen's grandfather, Elmer, was born in a lumber camp where his father was the foreman and his mother served as cook. As a young man, Elmer learned cedar fan carving from his relatives and other lumberjacks. He passed the skill on and Glen made his first cedar fan at the age of 12 in 1961, instructed by his grandfather, Elmer, and father, Stan.

About those early years Glen wrote, "Each piece of wood I worked with was a new mystery. Locked within it were the flaws, colors, and grain patterns that would determine the fan's final appearance. . . [and be a] discovery of the wood's hidden beauty."(1) Now more than 40 years later he still derives great pleasure from his carving and has even developed some variations that the lumberjacks of long ago never dreamed of. Glen makes various types of small birds with outspread wings, fan-tailed peacocks and grouse, flying doves with fan-spread tails, and decorative fans with wooden handles.

Glen lives near Cadillac on property that has been his family's for a century. He gets his white cedar from his own land, using dead or fallen trees and saving living ones for future generations. Some of his favorite wood is old cedar fence post, well seasoned, straight-grained, and hard.

Glen has passed on his fascination for fan carving to his son, Jeremy, and his daughter, Sara, to whom he has taught both the stories and practice of cedar-fan carving. He also has taught numerous workshops around Michigan, demonstrating fan carving to neighbors, school children, and friends and educating them about the art nurtured in Michigan lumber camps. Glen has strengthened, preserved, and promoted this beautiful tradition by generating new interest in it through his instruction and demonstrations.

(1) VanAntwerp, Glen. "The Fan Man," Eberly's Michigan Journal. 1980.

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