People often ask me when I find time to carve. They ask because they know I am busy. I have a career as an administrator at a university, I have a family, I volunteer with my church and I serve on the board of a large camp. I also like to play sports, and enjoy fishing and hunting and camping, as well as going to the theatre such as Bard on the Beach. The question contains a bit of incredulity, as this seems to be a busy life!
The question contains a flaw that I think needs addressing. I don’t find time to carve, I make time! After all, who else is responsible for how I use my time? I have many responsibilities, it is true, but I chose to get married, I choose to love my wife and kids in practical and daily ways. I choose to be as busy doing things that are important to us and to me.
This means I choose what I do and when I do it. A couple of weekends ago, we went to the beach for Canada Day (July 1), and I knew that we would be sitting around talking with friends and family, so before we left I cut out a spoon blank, grabbed a carving knife, and while being sociable and soaking up some vitamin D from the sun, I carved the spoon. In a couple of hours, the spoon was finished. When I got home, I parked the car in the garage, grabbed some 220 grit sandpaper and gave the spoon a couple of swipes with it to soften the edges. Then I wiped a finish of butcher block oil on it and posted two photos on social media. That literally took me 15 minutes. Within 5 minutes of me posting the pics, someone asked me if they could buy it.
I could have spent the day at the beach doing other things, but I chose to carve.
I have renovated three homes while we lived in them. We all know people who never finished their renovations. I swore I would not be one of those people, and my method for not losing momentum was to promise to do something on the home every day no matter what happened. Some days it meant I replaced the entire roof. Other days it meant that I tightened one screw on an electrical outlet cover plate. But the key was doing something every day.
Many years ago I decided that if I was going to be any good at this carving thing, I would need to take the same approach. On days when I am sick, maybe it is just reading a book or researching a sculpture. On a rainy winter Saturday when my wife is away, I might spend 8-10 hours in my studio. But most often I carve each evening for an hour or so. I am fortunate to have a dedicated room in our townhouse (one vacated by our oldest child who got married), so I can leave my work out and all I have to do is pick up the gouge and start carving where I left off.
I have to take responsibility for my time. If I don’t, who else will? So I squeeze it in here and there, carving on the beach or at halftime during the televised World Cup soccer games. Maybe even in the 15 minutes after I park the car to finish and sell a spoon before going upstairs to do the dishes.
So often, carvers are asked to carve the margins of things (bread platters, picture frames, etc.). I choose to carve in the margins of my life. It’s both therapeutic and productive!