Last year I had the honor of visiting toy design legend Mel Birnkrant, and among the secret treasures within his beautiful home were a series of stunning wood carvings hanging on his walls. On many of his walls.
Upon further inspection, it became clear that these were not only the works of a true master, but also the works of a person with a deep love for what they do. I was absolutely blown away by the art I was looking at. Exquisite renderings, all completely created from wood, of classic comic characters. Everything from Mickey Mouse to Little Nemo to Popeye adorned Mel's walls, all windows into each icon's world.
Mel explained that the carvings were all created by his great friend, Charles Ponstingl. I spent a long time staring at the various pieces, trying to understand how Charles put everything together. Having Mel as the guide, explaining each piece's history made the experience one of the best in my life.
Of course I took a multitude of pictures on my tiny iPod, none of which did the originals any justice, but I just wanted some kind of record to remember the occasion. I kept thinking how crazy it was that so few people would ever know about these wood carvings, as each piece was one of a kind and there was no real documentation of this rather large body of work, most of which Mel owned.
Well, Mel has once again shown how unbelievably focused and vital he is, even in his mid seventies! He has created an all new dedicated website, called Carving The Comics, which chronicles almost ALL of the wood carvings that Charles has made since he picked up a block of wood and a pen knife at the age of 38!
If you get the chance, head over to the site and curl up for an astonishing tale of creativity, comics history and most of all friendship.