Online Artist Archive
b. April 27, 1895
Like one of his intricate carvings whittled from a block of wood, the talent of Thomas Hansen was shaped out of a childhood disability. Stricken with osteomylitis (a bone infection) at the age of 12, Hansen spent much of his teenage years in a hospital and wheelchair. Sheer boredom allowed Hansen to not only develop an interest in woodcarving, but also the time to properly turn it into a skill.
An avid hunter and outdoorsman before and after his sickness, Hansen often modeled his carvings after game birds. They were said to be so life-like that game wardens used them as visual aids during lectures and wildlife groups employed them to help teach identification.
Hansen whittled his birds in pairs since the different genders in each species often have differing colors and feather patterns. Producing several of each species at a time, he first made a pattern that he traced onto pine or basswood. He would then cut the pattern out of the larger piece of wood with a jigsaw and carve details with a jackknife. When that was finished, he sanded away the rough edges and painted the carving.
A farmer by trade, he turned woodcarving into a full-blown business when he retired and moved to Valley City.
- Ben Nemenoff
Rolfsrud, Erling Nicolai. Extraordinary North Dakotans. Alexandria, Minnesota: Lantern Books, 1954.
Taylor, Edwin Mrs. Catalogue of Art Workers Within North Dakota. Bismarck: American Association of University Women (local branch), 1945.