A native of Sunset, Louisiana, artist Travis J. Huval began wood
carving in 2000. Born in 1978, Huval discovered his latent talent when
his father, crawfisherman Kernis Huval, asked him to carve a replica
of a crawfish from cypress. The younger Huval inadvertently realized his ability and interest in wood carving. Since that first piece in 2000, Huval has carved numerous pieces from many types of wood. Huval says that he generally allows the wood itself to determine the final creation, rather than attempting to manipulate the wood into a predetermined form. Often the wood leads him to the shape of a face or mask. Some woods inspire creatures of nature such as dragonflies and crawfish. Huval’s preferred woods are those with uniform density, such as mahogany, teak and mangrove, though he enjoys the challenge of working with any wood and often works with relatively difficult specimens. Many of the woods that Huval uses are donated to him by friends and acquaintances. Thus far, his finished pieces include the following woods:
· Cypress
       · Mangrove
       · Eastern red cedar
       · Black cherry
       · Tulip poplar
       · Ash
       · Oak (white and red)
       · Myrtlewood
       · Paduk
       · Teak
       · Walnut
      Often Huval works with “green” wood-wood that hasn’t 
“seasoned” over a period of time-largely because such seasoning
can require months or even years. Much of the wood is salvaged
from downed trees, and Huval usually does not know the date of 
the tree’s demise. Working with the wood of downed trees means
the wood has often been damaged by bugs, decay, and the 
elements, posing challenges to the carver. Huval allows the wood
to “cure” for anywhere from a day to several months or even years,
depending on when he is ready to carve it. 
      Regarding tools, Huval says he uses “anything that moves 
wood,” including hand driven tools, chisels, ads, rotary tools, 
drills, rasps, sandpaper, scrapers, a chainsaw and a handsaw. 
He has no standard means of beginning a piece, except to start
with whatever tool will remove the most wood.
      Once each piece is carved, Huval allows it to dry a minimum
of one month in a climate-controlled environment-the longer, the
better. 
      Many of the pieces are finished with a basic lacquer, which 
Huval finds easier to work with than other types of finishes. He
usually applies three coats of lacquer over a three hour period.
Then he places the piece in a climate-controlled environment 
for two to four weeks, at which point he will sand it to his liking
and add another coat of lacquer, allowing it to dry a minimum 
of one week. At this stage, Huval buffs the piece to its final 
finish. If he disapproves of the final finish, he may repeat some
of the finishing steps until it meets his approval.
      Huval faces several challenges in working with each wood.
Among the biggest challenges he faces are moisture exchange
and unseen “defects” such as insect damage, cracks, and 
interlocking grain or sudden changes in the direction of the 
grain. Another challenge is determining each wood’s ability or
inability to support a particular design. Resins and oils from the
wood tend to build up on the tools, posing problems in the 
finishing stages especially when the tools must be constantly
cleaned.
      Regarding his ideas for designs, Huval has no formal  
training in wood carving. His works have been created 
exclusively by intuition. Currently, Huval is seeking to expand
into stone carving and intends to acquire formal training for his
work with stone. From there, Huval would like to expand into 
other media while continuing his work with wood.