The “initiation” into wood carving stems from my time in foundation year at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich in 1973.
The first piece I was fortunate to find as shape and form in a 50mm board from a Swiss Stone- or Arolla Pine ( Pinus cembra) under expert guidance from my sculptor/scientific illustrator/stone mason tutor with his unrivalled expertise and proficiency, in many other disciplines as well.
The band saw helped the basic shape out of the plank followed by chisel work (after establishing how to maintain the edge on a wood chisel, and if fit for carving, is also fit for shaving. Not having facial hair of any significance at the time, I had to resort to my forearms…) and endless two-days-a-week sanding with I forget how many consecutively finer grades of sand paper.
And didn’t I drop the thing when nearly finished, with some of the outwardly extending 1mm thick leaves and lamellae chipping off! Thanks again to my teacher’s capabilities it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone, that the piece had been repaired.
I estimate its size from memory at about 250x180mm, because I have only the picture taken by the then college photographer, as the little sculpture was retained by the school.
The second, a 155mm diameter lentil shape, 55mm thick, with the same design carved into its surfaces – positive on one side, negative on the other – came out of an unusually large piece of Box wood, very fine grained and hard in its nature. The chisel texture left untouched in the sunken surfaces of the design, smoothed out and polished away in the elevated parts, all hand sanded with increasingly finer sand paper.
Later I made this “One-Apple-Bowl” from a 70mm pine board offcut, left over after cutting up a lot of these planks for window frames while working for a carpenter/joiner in 1981/2.
Chisel and sand paper work – the usual.
Some years later I was able to obtain the stock from one of the last large road side elms, one of a row that grew near Mullinahone, all stacked up in a saw mill.
Over a few weeks I helped this shape for the base of a carved “table” emerge from the sizable slice of wood, a few sketches of kind having patiently waited in notebooks for years.
Apart from the initial five minutes with the chain saw all chisel work. I had planned to sand it all down by hand to a polish with several grades of sand paper, an idea that didn’t last long after it took me twenty minutes to barely smooth the chisel texture from the first square inch of end grain with just the coarsest grade, and there’s a lot of end grain in this thing… . So I applied an even texture with the one spoon shaped chisel – and left it at that.
The following long strip of wall paper may look out of place on this page dedicated to sculptures.
I insert the picture of it because in the flow of the drawing are incorporated two sketches for the wood sculpture “Bond” that I carved from a block of sycamore after completing the drawing.
Sycamore, prone to rapid decaying as timber goes, looses its quality very quickly I find. Often even if moved immediately under a roof after cutting it gets “dosed” and develops fungal streaks in this generally high humidity climate.
I suspect “clean” sycamore would have to be kiln-dried.
Though the marbling effect form fungus can be extremely attractive on carved or turned and polished wood, this particular piece had been left out in the weather a bit too long, even wood worm was given time enough to have a go at it.
So it wasn’t only me working on it. A piece of cooperation…