Following him into the facility, the stacked boxes are barely noticed because the long length of the wall to the left is covered with all kinds of woodcarvings and cuttings.
“This is just a sampling of what I do,” he said, showing off the art-filled wall. “The boxes and other containers are full of more. I cut every day, so I guess you could say I love what I do.”
His talent for the unique art didn’t show up until Rau reached adulthood. Although he liked fooling around and working with wood, it wasn’t until he was into the second half of his life and his second marriage that he found out what he could really do.
“Gillian and I were planning on getting married in 2003. She had her heart set on a fairyland theme,” Rau said. “We couldn’t find anything anywhere that fit as decorations, so I set up my scroll saw and made the characters for her. Today, some of those characters are creating a fairyland scene under the tree in our yard here in Lebanon and once my scroll saw got wound up, it’s been going daily since then.”
Rau has books galore that contain pictures and ideas he can pull from for his own artistic creations, so the ideas never stop. Gillian has started adding color to some of the pieces, thereby adding a whole new dimension to the art. They plan on hitting the craft fairs when time allows and get into marketing more of their products.
Coming from a German ancestry, Rau was born in Gaithersburg, Md. His father brought four children into the marriage, as had his mother, for a total of eight children. They then had two children together, which increased the total to 10 with Rau as the youngest. He grew up, graduating from Gaithersburg High School and joining the Marine Corps 10 days after graduation.
“I think I watched too many John Wayne pictures while I was growing up,” Rau said. “All I ever wanted to do as a kid was join the Marines like he did in the movies.”
However, any traveling Rau thought he’d do with the service was short lived. His active duty saw him first going to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., then to school as a supplyman at Camp LeJune, N.C. A year and a half later, he was transferred to the Marine barracks at 8th and I streets. He finished his service stint in 1978.
Rau first married a lady from near his hometown. That union lasted 19 years, and they parted ways in 2002. Rau spent 25 years working for Spirent Communications as a shipping supervisor. That same year, a company softball team brought Rau and Gillian together.
“We both worked at the same plant, but I was in the manufacturing building, and she worked in the administrative building. It took a softball game to bring us together, and I fell instantly in love with this English girl,” he said.
The plants closed, and the couple tried other jobs but hated them. Gillian’s sister lived in Lebanon, and they moved here to be closer to her. It took Rau a couple of years to find work, but he finally went to work for J&K Small Engine Repair in LaVergne, driving a delivery truck. He left last September. Gillian went to work and still works for Veterans Administration in Murfreesboro.
Rau spends hours cutting every day. Besides the fact he loves working with all kinds of wood, he prefers turning out his beautiful and unique creations on red or white oak, although it depends what form the art is taking as to which kind of wood it will take. He might turn out Christmas decorations or a carved portrait of someone’s favorite dog or cat. Or, it may be a fish leaping on an angler’s line or a sunset scene cut into the wood. Whatever form it may take, the carving will be beautiful and say something, as well.
The Raus hope to get to more craft fairs in the near future and are presently working on the design of a new website.
On a personal level, the Raus can take care of themselves. Gillian is a second-degree black belt, and Rau holds a third degree.
Rau’s unique creations may be viewed by contacting him at 615-290-2542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.