Wood Carver’s Passion Creates Unique Art

You can view Gregory Reissner’s work at the Brick Municipal building. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  BRICK – Figurines and characters of all shapes and sizes were meticulously handcrafted from wood by one Brick Township man. Gregory Reissner showcases his intricate woodworking which explores many traditional methods and personifies his exquisite craftmanship.

  Reissner was born and raised in Newark. After graduating from West Side High School in 1957, he went to work for Prudential Insurance Company as an IBM machine operator. The job at Prudential set the path of his future careers in the computer technology field.

  When Reissner moved to Brick Township in 1967, he took a job as a civilian employee with the United States Army, followed by working for Merck Pharmaceutical Company where he remained for the next 23 years, and from which he retired. 

  When he was getting close to retiring, he expressed how he pursued his passion for woodcarving full-time.

Pictured is resident Gregory Reissner carving one of his many characters from wood. (Photo courtesy Brick Township Historical Society)

  “I probably started seriously back in 1993 after I retired, but I was carving before that. About 30 to 40 years at least,” he said. “My friend and I used to watch people who had retired. We both came to the same conclusion that if you don’t have something to do when you’re retired, you’re going to be in trouble. So, I decided since I was already doing some carving that I would take it seriously.”

  Reissner always liked working with wood, and volunteered his time and talent building stage sets for the Brick Township Children’s Theater.

  Over the years Reissner had purchased books about the different types of carving.

  “One of the things I also did when I retired was, I started to buy books. I do the carving from the book, so some of them take longer – to figure out how to do it. Some of them are easier to do,” he said.

  One of his creations on display is a wooden bowl, with different shades of wood and ornate designs.

  “The bowl is very intricated – it’s what they call segmented turning, that was turned on a wood lathe. It’s made up of many parts glued together, then rounded out and fashioned on the lathe,” he said.

Gregory Reissner creates many characters as well as trucks, ducks, and bowls. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  He began his carving career making ducks and swans, he also made trucks and earth moving toys. Reissner eventually found his interest carving figures of people.

  “I don’t know why but I do a lot of Santa Clauses; I’ve done a variety of them, almost every country has its own version. United States has the classic Santa we know; Austria and Germany, Finland, they all have something of a different Santa Claus – different traditions that go with it. But they all come down to the same theme,” Reissner said.

  “The characters are all done by hand by a carving knife. It’s a small hand knife, you need something to do the details with in the faces,” Reissner added.

  Reissner discussed how he’s recently been crafting gnomes, as his granddaughter loves the fantasy figures.

Gregory Reissner creates many characters as well as trucks, ducks, and bowls. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  “I’ve made about 50 to 60 of them. My granddaughter is a guidance counselor. So, when then children come into her office, they give all the gnomes names and talk about them. It’s a nice distraction for the kids when they come in. The kids love to go to her office in school,” he said.

  Currently, Reissner is crafting wooden boxes that adorn engraved designs and writings.

  “I’ve run into a little problem with my hands, arthritis is starting to set in, and it’s hard to do some of the fine details on the characters. So, what I do with the boxes is I engrave the boxes with a name on it. It’s what they call chip carving. It’s a very simple form of carving. It looks like a lot of detail but in reality, it’s not,” he said.

    You can check out Reissner’s collection that is on display at the Brick Township municipal building located at 401 Chambers Bridge Road.