Monday 9 July 2018
Having done a lot of carvings of animals and birds, I have recently turned my attention to figurative studies. I got into carving after a brief period of illness and needed something therapeutic that would occupy my mind. Somehow I came across woodcarving and have been steadily making carvings for the past 15 years. My level of attainment has gone up and up and the years have passed with me always striving for perfection, but never quite reaching it.
My recent work has included figures carved from many different species of timber, which I have selected to suit the different elements of the carving in progress. These include lime wood (Tilia vulgaris) which is good for the flesh parts, or a small piece of walnut (Juglans regia) for a moustache or hair which is shaped, textured and sanded and then carefully pegged and glued into place. With clothing I will use walnut camphor or other coloured wood that will give a contrast with the lighter-coloured woods. I know purists would not like this, as they think things should be carved from one piece of wood, which, I admit is a purer form of carving. But you get special effects when using different species of wood for different elements, not possible from a carving made from one piece of timber. Some of the woods I have used are cherry (Prunus spp.), camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), apple (Malus sylvestris), pear (Pyrus communis), boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), ebony (Diospyros spp.), lime, elm (Ulmus procera), purpleheart (Peltogyne porphyrocardia) and rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) to name a few.
The way I work is, for example, when carving a pair of jesterâ€™s shoes, using a two-way cut out and then shaping, refining and adding detail and sanding through six different grades of abrasive. I then position, peg and glue together the legs and carry on with the other parts, using initial drawings and original designs.
The tools I use most are Flexcut gouges. I like these as they are made from thin section steel and keep their edge a long time. Other tools involved in my work are Microplane rasps, Dremel drills and a variety of tungsten and diamond bits. Sometimes I use a Black & Decker power file for rough shaping and sculpting. This is especially useful on some of the larger parts and for finishing, I use good quality abrasives.
I donâ€™t have a bandsaw which is a disadvantage, so instead I use a jigsaw for initial cutting out of designs. For smaller parts a coping saw is used. Recently I have been adding other materials in my work including small beads and semi-precious stones, which I use for details such as buttons on clothing. I will also fashion parts from sheet brass copper and aluminium using tin snips and files. I think adding other materials to wood sculptures greatly enhances them.
I have learnt a lot from the DVDs and books produced by Ian Norbury. I think his work is sublime. Also the work of Fred Zavadil is just as brilliant. For my figurative studies my inspiration comes from medieval history and watching people in general. For birds and animals I am obviously inspired by the natural world.
Sometimes I like a carving that someone else has completed and will make my own version, but I will never copy, always altering and trying to improve it by following my own path.
My current work will be more figurative studies. Presently I am working on a carving of a Knight Templar.