MONTREAL, Wis. — John Lauzon’s Hobbit House is a work in progress.
The resident of 82 Minnesota Ave. in Montreal is an ardent woodcarver, so when a spruce tree in his front yard became potentially dangerous to his house, he hatched the idea of carving a Hobbit haven.
“I hated to cut it down and waste wood,” he said.
Lauzon claims Hobbits had been hiding under the deck of his house and they needed a place to stay, so he began carving out the tree as a shelter for the little creatures.
That reasoning may sound as spooky as many of the beady-eyed, bearded men Lauzon chisels out of driftwood.
When it was too wet to work outside this spring, he retreated to the woodcarver’s man cave in his garage workshop, complete with television and music, where he has fashioned hundreds of pieces of art from various types of wood.
His masterpiece, a carving featuring a native American theme, sits in a corner in his living room.
Lauzon carves with chisels and mallets and the details in his finished pieces are incredible. The Hobbit tree, for example, has stairways along the sides of the tree that spiral to the little house at the top.
He’s completed a carving of himself, naturally in the act of chiseling his way out of a tree stump.
The gnarliest looking tree knot can end up with faces and eyes in his workshop.
Lauzon worked as maintenance supervisor at the Westgate nursing home in Ironwood for 21 years and for four or five years with the Ironwood Housing Commission before a bad back forced his retirement to a full-time hobby.
He began carving in 1982, inspired by the efforts of Kitty Kocol, who taught the art. His move to Montreal in a secluded neighborhood proved perfect for his pursuits.
Lauzon’s pieces are displayed at art galleries in Port Wing, Boulder Junction and at Z’s Gallery in Ironwood. He sells many pieces by word of mouth from his woodcarver’s cave, where he often works on two or three projects at a time.
He also uses Lake Superior rocks in many of his works.
Lauzon’s imagination seems unlimited. A “plane plane” hangs at an angle from the ceiling in the workshop. It’s an airplane made out of, well, a planer that’s used to whittle wood.
He doesn’t fly, but has whittled a mini Montreal airport, imagining himself as a pilot.
He has created works of art inside bottles, not divulging exactly how those pieces of wood and coins fit inside the small mouth of the bottle.
With the workshop less than a snowball’s throw away from the house, the hobby is especially productive in the long winter months. Lauzon doesn’t get too far from his art, except for rides on his beloved Harley motorcycle.
In one corner of the workshop there’s a varnished slab of a tree trunk that will be used for a very special occasion. It will be the invitation piece to his 50th wedding anniversary. He and his wife, Louise, will reach the milestone on July 6.
He jokes that guests will be invited to “log in,” signing the wood piece.