“Carving is a joy to the artist… To attack the raw material, gradually to extract a shape out of the following ones own desire or, sometimes, the inspiration of the material itself: this gives the sculptor great joy.” ~ Aristide Maillol
My first attempt of a snowman.
Those who know me would say I have been whittling on for many years but it has been only this year, that I have tried having a go at the art of wood carving/whittling. It is also something I had never planned in doing, it has just happened but I’m bloody (bloody being the operative word) enjoying myself in the process and with a global pandemic doing its thing, I’ve had more time than usual to put in the practice. With anxiety levels high for everyone at present, I have found this a very relaxing pastime… even when putting on the plasters.
The opening quote mentioned the word artist, I certainly would not class myself as that well, not that sort of artist anyway but very much a total beginner. Possibly the main reason for this post is that, if I am still doing this in a few months time, I can and look back on my work and hopefully see some improvement in my work… maybe.
For those who have not heard the of whittling, this is the art of ‘carving shapes out of wood using a knife or a time-occupying non artistic process of repeatedly shaving slivers from a piece of wood.’ All this can be done starting with a razor sharp knife, a strop and a piece of wood and then you are ready to Rock ‘n Roll! Oh, and having a safety glove would be a sensible idea… as I have just found out! Along with some plasters.
Carving hook knife.
A knife is all you need especially to begin with but there are many other tools that help you with projects along the way.
The idea was loosely put into my head from someone on Twitter who had come across my book (The Forgotten Garden) and put the idea to me about carving the figure of the character from the book. The idea certainly intrigued me but I would certainly need a lot of practice before I could take on carving the character of ‘Bracken’
Not being put off by the complexity of carving a detailed figure, I bought myself a whittling knife kit and some wood off the internet and started practising. Although, I started with learning the basic cuts and tackling shapes/figures that are a little easier to do. Of course, I then headed off to YouTube to watch hours of wood carving tutorials from the likes of Doug Linker, Kevin Coates etc. Doug Linker I have found particularly helpful with his style of teaching and the types of projects he does, still a little out of my league but still fun and interesting in the process.
A few early attempts.
First attempt of Father Christmas wood spirit.
Basic unfinished squirrel.
The type of wood I have been using has been Basswood (USA) or for us in Europe, Lime or Linden wood. Although, even in this country it is sold under the name of Basswood. You can also use most types wood from your garden or surrounding area but dry wood is preferred although green wood can be used especially if it is a hardwood.
Is this a craft I will continue with? Most definitely yes. Although is it something I can along with gardening, make a living out of? To become a viable business opportunity?That I am not so sure on although I am hoping that with more practice to bring me up to a higher more saleable level, it may be something to consider in the future.
Some of the carvings can be left blank where others I have painted with acrylic paints but some, can come to life with a few simple touches from a pyrography pen.
So When I am not trying to slice my fingers off with a razor sharp knife, I’m burning myself on a pyrography pen. Pyrography the art of wood burning involves less blood but no less swearing, especially when you try and pick up the wrong end.
My first go with acrylic paint.
With the pandemic still raging, my time as a self employed gardener as never been under as much pressure as it is now. With the weather now against me along with the pandemic and yes, I am one of the three million forgotten, ignored/excluded sole traders, self employed etc that has not had any help from the government… the future is very fucking worrying indeed. Give us a fucking break Boris, that’s all we are asking! With hundreds of people applying for the same one job vacancy and this will only get worse over the coming year, adding another string to your bow might be a potential option… especially when the weather is against you.
If wood carving doesn’t become a potential businesses avenue, I will certainly have fun with it as a hobby… as long as I don’t slice my fingers off and burn the house down in the meantime! Although if I don’t end up slicing and burning, the next step might be revving the chainsaw and doing some real carving…..