Carbon County artist's woodwork creations garner blue ribbon recognition at state event
|Tom Rice shows off his wookworking projects that earned top honors at the state fair. The local artist spent 40 years working in the coal industry. Rice came to Utah from Pennsylvania 25 years ago to open the Trail Mountain mine . He was the general manager at Trail Mountain for several years. After Trail Mountain closed, Rice worked for Tram Electric for 10 years before retiring in 1998.|
Tom Rice is an artist who spent many years mining coal.
As a high school student in Pennsylvania, Rice discovered a talent for art.
But Rice's father owned a coal mine and he joined the family business right out of high school.
Rice worked in the coal industry for almost 40 years, first as a miner, then an owner and operator and then as a manager for a large company.
Rice came to Utah from Pennsylvania 25 years ago to open the Trail Mountain mine for the Fetterhoff Corporation. He was the general manager at Trail Mountain for several years.
After the Trail Mountain mine was closed, Rice worked for Tram Electric for 10 years before retiring in 1998.
After retiring, Rice went back to his passion for art and found that he had a talent for woodworking. He began making simple wooden toys and figures as a hobby.
"Something to keep me busy," commented Rice.
As he began to develop his talent, he took on ever more complicated and intricate projects.
Rice's walls are now covered with shelves filled with wooden trains, wagons, airplanes, carousels, clocks, and toys.
He has sold a few items locally. He has also given many pieces away to family and friends, but he never imagined himself to be a master woodworker.
But last year, he and wife Jane happened to attend the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City.
As the couple walked through the woodworking exhibits, Jane pointed out to him that his creations at home was every bit as good as some of the blue ribbon winners.
The couple decided to enter a few of Rice's projects in the fair this year.
In September, Rice took four of his favorite pieces to the fair.
When the couple entered the exhibit hall after the judging, Rice indicated that the first thing he saw was his clock with a big red ribbon on it.
"I was so happy," said the local woodworker. "Second place isn't bad."
And then Rice discovered that all three of his other pieces were draped with blue ribbons.
"They liked my covered wagon because I made the wheels all by hand," noted Rice.
The carousel spins on a rotating shaft and the train is a masterwork of detail.
Rice said he doesn't buy wood for his projects. Instead, he searches old woodpiles and scrounges for wood that other people throw away.
People throw away some great wood when they remodel old homes, pointed out Rice.
Door frames, molding and old pallets are where the local artist gets a lot of his raw material.
Rice is not one set on his laurels. He is already making plans for future projects and he is sure to have some exhibits in next year's state fair.