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Gulf Coast Artisan

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IF YOU GO:

Location: Wheelock Gallery, 1809 Nature’s Way, Navarre, Fla Close to the Gulf Breeze Zoo.

When: Open Daily

Phone: 850-324-0303

Details: 4th Generation German woodcrafter Jeff Wheelock and his six-year-old son J. T. display and sell their their wares and exhibit their skills. Wheelock’s work as an “extreme carver” has garnered him attention in many publications and his work can be found in over 35 countries.

Website: www.wheelockgallery.com

“My ancestors were German,” Wheelock said. “Way back they lived in the Black Forest and they made coo- coo clocks and furniture like hand-carved mirrors and dressers.”

Wheelock, 51 and his young son, Jeffrey Thomas (J.T.) , six, are carrying on the family tradition. The Gulf Coast was a favorite family vacation spot when Wheelock was growing up in Wisconsin and he headed south soon after his high school graduation where he took up the surfing lifestyle.

“I competed on the Innerlight (surfing) team with Yancy Spencer,” Wheelock said. “We had some success at some national events and a lot of fun. I still surf today so if the waves are up you will likely find me in the gulf.”

In 1985 he picked up carving tools he had seen his uncle, a master carver and furniture maker, use many times when he was young and began a career he describes as one of the most rewarding he could imagine.

“I haven’t had another job in 20 years,” Wheelock said. “I’ve now got stuff in 50 countries.”

Wheelock calls himself an “extreme carver” and if you visit many Gulf Coast restaurants and bars including Juana’s Pagodas at Navarre Beach, you’ll find his high-end work on display from furniture, benches, tables, totem poles to canoes, Pelicans and other birds and sea life of all descriptions.

J.T. started carving at the ripe old age of four and the pair have become an attraction of their own.

“He’s just a great kid,” Jeff Wheelcok said. “ I do the cutout and he sands and paints and of course, we make sure he has all the safety equipment on.”

The carver-in-training has his own area set aside at the gallery.

“We’ve started a college fund with his earnings but he gets to spend some on himself,” Wheelock said.

The Wheelock duo were recently featured in a five-page spread in Coastal Lifestyles magazine and visitors seek them out.

The Wheelock Gallery is located along Hwy. 98 near the Gulf Breeze Zoo. Cars stop daily to admire the pair’s work for sale proudly on display.