Carving a Niche

Steve Potter finds his second
act in a long-held passion

Renowned chip carver Wayne Barton once described the art of woodcarving as an “adventure.” For Steve Potter, woodworking is a lifetime adventure—one that continues today in a way Potter never saw coming, but that would surely make Barton proud.

For 35 years, the Connecticut native, as well as his wife Jan, worked in the state’s public school system—she taught English, he taught industrial arts, including woodworking. His passion for the craft began in the mid-1960s while taking a shop class in junior high. “Just to walk in and smell the fresh cut wood—ah, it was great,” he recalls fondly. In between his teaching work, Potter pursued his own woodworking endeavors, which included hand-making such fine furniture as Windsor chairs. Woodwork took a pause, though, upon his and Jan’s retirement. “We sold our house, we sold everything in it, I sold my woodshop, and we moved onto our boat full-time in Boston,” he details. 

When the couple decided to move back to dry land, Potter says, “It had to be the Cape,” having spent summers of their teaching years in Truro. Settling in Eastham, Potter’s woodworking desires resurfaced. At this point, furniture making was “been there, done that”—instead, Potter had woodcarving on his mind, which he admits he knew nothing about. He contemplated what to carve: Birds? Little caricatures? “Nothing was hitting me yet,” he says. In his research he came across chip carving, and then one day, inspiration struck. “We rent a place in Florida every March, and we were sitting there and all of a sudden I said to my wife, ‘That’s it!’” he recalls. “And she said ‘What?’ There was a wooden tray on the coffee table. I said, ‘I’ll chip carve serving trays!’”