Two men seated outside a house, objects on the pavement, an interested donkey: this is a charmer from Laguna artist and wood carver, Carl Christian Abel,
Born in Denmark on April 10, 1891. Abel settled in Laguna Beach in 1925 and lived there until his demise on Oct. 20, 1975. Art measures 23 x 20.
Laguna Beach Independent:
The Abel Legacy: Four Generations Of Art And Architecture
You can find their creations from one end of town to the other, both hill and dale. From iconic architecture to elaborate wood carvings to fine art and jewelry, the Abel family has been a major part of Laguna history for over 74 years.
Firmly at the helm of the Abel clan today is Gregg Abel, who has designed and built some of the finest homes in Laguna, but has also turned family historian and recently hosted a party/retrospective that shared his family’s local legacy with guests.
Carl Abel’s carved potter still at toil in front of the Old Pottery Place, formerly the Pottery Shack.
Gregg began his career at the age of 14, working in his father’s firm learning design and construction. After 10 years behind a desk, he shifted his focus to construction so he could work in the field and understand how homes are built. Over a period of time, his design and construction business has become known for flawless execution in the Craftsman style. He is also no stranger to commercial endeavors, including the recent Lumberyard restaurant renovation. Gregg shares in the family’s passion for woodcarving as well as jewelry design.
The patriarch of the Abel legacy was Carl “Pop” Abel, who moved to Laguna from Denmark in 1937. A well-known figure in his homeland, Carl ran an air circus and designed one of the first commuter-friendly folding wing airplanes in 1929. In an ironic twist, just before his patent was to be approved, his financial backer died in a plane crash. He pulled up roots, moved to Laguna, and became an antiques dealer and occasional architectural designer. He ultimately built four homes in Laguna, all of which are still standing.
Arguably his best-known design is the Bridge House on Oak Street, built in 1940. As the story goes, Carl had been wandering the streets of Laguna looking at empty lots because “he was in a mood to build.” At length he arrived on Oak Street and set his sights on two lots. Only one problem: a deep and wide ravine ran through the middle of the properties. Undaunted, he was determined to build on the seemingly impassable parcel, and came up with the idea of a bridge spanning the two lots. Carl’s many other design gifts didn’t stop there; he embellished the home with unique features such as hand-hewn beams, a Danish windmill on the bank of the creek and charming wood carvings.
The Jolly Roger sign ready for delivery in front of Carl Abel’s shop.
Wood carving is what Carl Abel is most known for. He prolifically crafted works for private patrons, as well as many establishments in Laguna, including the Jolly Roger and Royal Hawaiian restaurants and the Laguna Beach County Water District. In 1956, his talent was recognized by Norman Rockwell, who authorized Carl to carve wood reproductions of his illustrations, according to correspondence kept by the family. Carl also received thank you letters from Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon for carvings he made for them. One of his largest and most venerable carvings is the potter on the front of the Pottery Shack, which is a self portrait.