HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — No matter what happens for Marshall University during the upcoming 2019 football season, a season that starts with high expectations for the Herd, Steve Cotton, Marshall’s play-by-play announcer, is already a winner.
Cotton won first place in the miscellaneous category during the recent National Caricature Carving Competition and Exhibit during a seminar in Converse, Indiana from the Caricature Carvers of America.
It was Cotton’s first national win in woodcarving.
He submitted his piece, a carved Santa Claus with a pipe, by mail.
“I did not know I had gotten the blue ribbon until it came back in the mail,” Cotton said of what he found in his mailbox on Saturday. “I had the carving returned and it had a blue ribbon with it.”
His style of carving is caricature carving.
“Part of caricature carving is the humor involved, so often you can come up with something a little quirky or just try to make people smile, that’s the main thing,” Cotton said.
When the elder Cotton took up woodcarving as a way to take his hobby on the road more easily in retirement, he inspired his son as well.
A class in Wheeling more than a decade ago put Cotton on a path that now includes woodcarving classes each year worked around Marshall athletic schedules.
In June, he attended six days of classes with experts when the International Woodcarvers Congress met in Maquoketa, Iowa.
“If you’ve had a lot going on, a really busy week with whatever chaos of life, when you sit down and carve, you actually have to concentrate. You focus,” Cotton said.
“I’ll sit down for an hour or, if it’s a long session, maybe even two hours and, when you finish up, you’re kind of refocused and have been able to clear your head a little bit.”
Cotton uses northern basswood for his projects partly because the growth rings on the wood are smaller and can better hold detail.
He finishes his pieces with thinned-down acrylic craft paint and seals them with clear lacquer.
“That’s a big debate in the industry — is whether that’s art or if it’s just a craft,” Cotton said. “I don’t care what people call it. If they enjoy a Christmas ornament or a Santa Claus or a sailor, then so much the better.”
At times, his work has had a Marshall flavor.
“I have done a couple of Marcos (the Marshall mascot). I don’t have them. I’ve given them away. Most of my carvings have been given away,” he said. “But I find I don’t do as well with animals. I get frustrated carving even a caricature animal.”
‘Woodcarver’ is listed in his Twitter bio right after ‘broadcaster’ which, he said, is a conversation starter when he’s on the road with the Herd.
“I think you can really get to know people through their hobbies and also find out some pretty interesting things about folks,” Cotton said.
Cotton will be back at the microphone before Marshall, the favorite to win the Conference USA East Division this year, takes the field against VMI to open the season at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Huntington at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“It’s going to be a pretty fun year,” Cotton said. “We’ve got a really tough non-conference schedule, so we’ll find out in a hurry how good Marshall is.”