There are a few reasons why I love wood carving. I get to work with people and take their ideas and put them into something tangible and artistic all at once. And you get something useful and beautiful, while enjoying the anticipation while it’s being worked on.
For example, in a previous post I spoke about the Blossoming Lotus Studios and the carving I did in Western Red Cedar. The client was very pleased when I delivered the carving, and she spoke about the need for a doorstop and a sign to tell students to remove their shoes before entering the studio. We were just talking about ideas when she stopped me and asked, “Could you carve something in the same theme?” As we developed her ideas a little further, possibilities took shape in my head.
For the doorstop, she wanted something that would hold the door open but also hold some coloured stones, fitting with the theme of an eastern studio. I always try to having carvings that hint at something more, or that let people have an “Oh look at that!” moment. So, I designed the doorstop with a bowl for stones and inside the bowl would be an outline of the lotus theme. My vision was that when the bowl was full of stones, you might only see hints of the lotus – maybe enough for you to stick your fingers in and stir the stones round to see more. I knew it had to be in heavy hardwood to stand up to the abuse of a door and also needed to be big enough to kick under a door, so it couldn’t be in Western Red Cedar. Here’s what I came up with:
As for a sign to remind people to remove their shoes, I thought it should be one of the first things to set the tone for the studio. As students walk down the hallway, they would pass by painted lotus blossoms on the wall. Then the next thing they would see would be the sign. So I wanted it to be welcoming and in the same theme as the entire studio, but also stand out from the light colours. Specifically, I wanted to draw people’s attention from the sign to the carved lotus blossom on the wall as soon as they walked in. Tell me, do you think I achieved my goals?
About these carvings:
The door stop is carved in Cherry, in fact, a local piece of wood from Hope, BC. It’s finished in multiple coats of tung oil. I glued an anti-slip rubber strip to the bottom because the floor in the studio is very slippery laminate.
The shoe sign is Western Red Cedar, approximately 12 by 18 in inches and 3/4″ thick. It also is finished in multiple coats of tung oil. The letters are raised, as are the two icons of the blossoming lotus.
Now’s your chance to see some world class wood carvers displaying their art in a show while also competing for awards like “Best of Show” and “First Place in Division”, etc. Three judges, including Canada’s premiere carver, Dennis Moor, will be at the show to make their determinations for what makes a great carving. Dennis Moor is the owner of Chipping Away, a wood carving store, and also is the designer of what are undoubtably the world’s best chip carving knives on the market. Not only will he be judging the entries, but he will also be doing a few carving demonstrations throughout the day.
Also, if you’d like to find out prices of carvings, many of the carvers will have their carvings on sale. If you’re a carver, you can compare prices to see if you’ve priced your carvings “in the market”. There will be hundreds of people at the show admiring and buying. If you’re looking at picking up a tool or two, there will be many vendors displaying tools and materials and giving demonstrations.
Last year, I was contacted by a person who was creating a studio at the Richmond campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The studio was called “Blossoming Lotus Studio” and was being created by the Student Association. The studio had an image they wanted to use, and which was being painted on the wall of the hallway outside. They wanted me to carve something similar.
As this was going to be one of the few pieces of art inside the studio, I understood that it needed to be a relatively large piece. The studio also had distinctly Eastern feel about it, yet here it was almost as West as it gets in Canada. This piece needed to capture both East and West. I decided that to be eastern, it needed to look like the lotus blossom, while also carved in a rich, dark wood. To reflect it’s location in the West, the lotus should be carved from an indigenous wood – local and common in Richmond – Western Red Cedar just seemed right.
Here’s a series of photos showing the progression of the carving:
The above picture is 5 pieces of Western Red Cedar, laminated together to form a panel almost 3 feet by 3 feet.
About the carving:
This carving was done in Western Red Cedar, approximately 2 feet 6 inches tall by 3 feet wide by 5/8″ thick. It’s finished with multiple coats of Tung Oil and hand rubbed to a smooth finish. It was done as a commission and is not for sale. It is currently hanging in the Blossoming Lotus Studio at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond Campus.
What I enjoy most about wood carving are the never-ending challenges. First comes the challenge of a good design. I hope to design carvings that are pleasing to the eye and create the impression of wholeness. Second comes the challenge of the material. Wood is always unique. There are no two pieces of wood that are the same. Different types of wood create different effects and allow or limit the carver’s options. For example soft woods are difficult to carve intricate detail into because the grain can crush or simply not be strong enough to hold up under the carver’s gouge. Hard woods, on the other hand, can take any amount of detail, but take much longer to carve. Also, different types of wood have colour and grain uniquenesses, and knowing how these work with or against the design is important. Third comes the challenge of executing the design in a special piece of wood and bringing all the elements of skill, design, and material to form a piece of art.
I am particularly fond of this bread plate:
About the carving:
This is a bread plate that is 18″ in diameter and 1″ thick. It’s carved in Cherry wood which naturally oxidizes and turns the rich reddish/brown that you see here. It’s finished in a food safe oil and beeswax blend. The phrase is taken from the famous “Lord’s Prayer” passage in the Bible (Matthew chapter 6, verse 11).
Carving letters around a circle is more difficult than I first imagined. I hadn’t realized that the outside of the circle would be longer than the inside. Stretch a string around the inside of circle below the letters and then again around the outside of the rim of the plate, and you’ll find aproximately one and a half inches difference in length. The design of the letters and the spacing of the top of the letters and the bottom of the letters all has to take that into account. I ended up using a compass and protractor, drawing rays from the centre out to where I thought each letter should be. I spent many hours figuring out the spacing and drawing each letter to fit the spacing, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
The symbol at the top of the plate is a stylized stalk of wheat. I designed and carved this while we lived in Saskatchewan. Our house overlooked a wheat field, literally a few steps behind our house, which was a daily reminder that we lived in the Bread Basket of Canada. I jogged past amber waves of grain daily in the summer and early fall and often thought about how I might incorporate some of that beauty into my carvings.
This one is in a private collection, as are 5 of 6 others carved in oak, walnut and maple and I can carve you one of your own for $150. Other phrases are also possible too! Send me an email at email@example.com to commission your own.
Love spoons are a very common wood carving project, often recommended for beginning carvers. This was one of my very first wood carvings that I ever did. My father cut out the general shape with his bandsaw, and gave me an article in a magazine to follow directions from. Of course, something went a little wrong and I ended up having to modify the carving a little to make it work. As usual, I can’t carve something without making it my own, so I was happy with making the change.
About the carving:
This love spoon is carved in Black Walnut, and sprayed with clear lacquer. It’s at my Mom’s place and not for sale.
This week’s post is about a carving that I did in collaboration with my daughter Miriah. She’s quite the artist, and I wanted to carve a mask, so I asked her to draw one that I could carve. The drawing she came up with was quite fetching, with very simple lines and an appealing look to it. With just a few minor alterations I knew it would carve up very nicely. I really enjoyed collaborating with my daughter on a project and would like to do more. Here’s the result.
About the carving:
I chose one of my favourite carving woods for this project: Birch. I chose it because it is a hardwood and strong enough for the purpose. It has almost no noticeable grain to distract from the unique lines of the carving. Left unstained, it is almost white in colour, allowing it to blend with many different backgrounds. I finished it with multiple coats of tung oil, buffed after drying. It is 8″ x 6″ x 1″, and came from a board given to my dad by Roy Corbett, cut on Roy’s own bandsaw mill.
It’s not for sale and is hanging on the wall in Miriah’s room.
This carving was an attempt for me to try my hand at a common woodcarving subject: the Great Northern Diver or Common Loon. I don’t normally paint my carvings, as I prefer the wood to show, but sometimes I’ll make an exception. You see, the way I figure it, if I’m going to go through the trouble of carving something in wood, why bother painting it? To me, a painted carving suddenly becomes in competition with the cheap, plastic or resin jobs that you can get at the nearest big box department store. Who can tell if it’s wood or mass-produced resin? But if I let the wood show through, well then, it’s pretty hard to compete with that – the skill of the carver is on display.
Obviously, to paint a carving well takes great skill. I’m not belittling those great carvers who carve birds with every possible detail, right down to wood burning the feathers, and then paint them with iridescent colours. Those carvings look like they could up and fly away at a moment’s notice. But I’m just not that into painting – I’m a wood carver by nature. However, every now and then, something catches my fancy and I just have to give it a whirl.
The picture below is of a Great Northern Diver or Common Loon, carved as a smoothie, with just a touch of detail carved into it. And then I painted it. The part that makes me happiest is that you can actually see the wood grain under the paint. You can’t see through the paint (although that idea did run through my mind), but the grain is raised enough to be seen in the paint.
About the carving:
It’s carved in pine, approximately 12 inches long by 7 inches tall. It’s painted with acrylics, top-coated with clear acrylic. This is in a private collection and not for sale.
Please give me your feedback : do you prefer painted or natural wood carvings?