The Brewster (NY) Rotary Club is sponsoring a vintage carousel horse raffle to benefit the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding program. While this horse never graced a carousel, it is one of 1500 made for Applebee’s restaurant chain. This particular horse is approx 60”x40” and is hand-painted, signed and numbered by the artist. I don’t believe the horse is wood. White carved wooden molds which allowed plastic horses to be made in quantity. Tickets for the raffle are $10 each or 3 for $25. The winner will be drawn on August 16, 2020. All proceeds will benefit the Pegasus program.
Bruce White, one of the world’s leading expert on these painted ponies, reported in an interview that his career as a carver came by accident. While he was working as a Navy medic, a trip to an art fair changed his life.
I just kind of fell into it. When I was a kid, I never rode on a carousel. I wanted to go ride the tilt-a-whirl and crazy, scary rides. I never took an art class in my entire life. I got kicked out of art when I was in junior high, and I never took any more after that.
I was watching a guy carve at an art show. He was carving this owl. It was just fabulous. And they are like that is so beautiful and that’s so great. And I said, “I wish I could do that.” And the guy just looked at me and said you know, “The proof of desire is pursuit.” And so I did. I started pursuing it. Took my wife’s cutting board. The first thing I tried to do, I did this little sailing ship on this cutting board. It turned out pretty good. I was still in the Navy. I started making plaques for people as each parted. And I guess I had a knack for it. Before I knew what was happening, I had people calling me from actually all over the world –because my plaques were going all over the world-saying can you make me a plaque for this, or make me a plaque for that.
Bruce recounts that he graduated from plaques to carving furniture, “I made a lot of cedar chests.”
One day this lady asked me, “Can you make a carousel horse?” Well, I’ve never tried but I’ll give it a try. So I started working on this carousel horse. And the newspaper there in town-I was working on my first porch-and this newspaper came by and saw this crazy guy working on a carousel horse in his front yard, and they came did a little story about it.
That story led to a job at Wonder Toys where he made the wooden carvings used for molds bouncy horses (on springs). He also made carousel horses for a company owned by Wonder Toys’ parent company, Miami-based Rotocast International Inc.
So then the carousel companies that make the big carousels-there are about a dozen of them worldwide-they’ve starting calling me and having me make their plugs for them. You’ll see my figures on carousels literally all over the world.
White used pictures in National Geographic magazine as inspiration, carving the rough fur of a coyote into the wood or re-creating the strong wings of an eagle frozen in flight. The hardest part, he said, was carving an animal that is realistic, but can still carry a rider and fit on a carousel. It takes White anywhere from one to two weeks to carve a wooden carousel animal, depending on how intricate and complicated the design. The plastic reproductions take about four hours to make.
After running White’s Carousel for several years and publishing a definitive book called Carousel Carving, tragedy struck. while preparing for a move, White’s workshop burned to the ground in 2000 and he lost everything, including all his tools and molds, as well as personal possessions stored there. For several years after that, White stopped carving, instead becoming a truck driver. Thankfully, he turned back to wood carving after being diagnosed with macular degeneration, determined to make beautiful things from wood again.