Carving experience

Working on one of my earliest carvings. (1998)


Oddly enough, most of my experience in woodworking (and other things) was handed down to me from my family.  From an early age (during high school) I developed my design skills and techniques of wood carving with help from my grandfather, William MacCrea.  I experimented in many other media before I found that I favored woodcarving the most.  Some of the other media included leather, stone (chiseling), illustration and some clay work all of which I found very interesting and exciting.

I think illustration has probably inspired my design skills the most.  If there were no other media to work in, I always found working in illustrating and writing (calligraphy) a collection of stories, mostly from within Celtic mythology but also those found in the later Celtic Christian influence.  This of course has taught me many of the stories, while inspiring my work.  My high school art teacher, Marry Harris was also of great influence and aid to my artistic abilities.  Marry was very good at trying to get her students involved in many different areas of art, and in doing so she was very affective at helping many students find what they are best at.

Following graduation I traveled to the East Coast of Ireland (in the Boyne valley) to work with another man skilled in Celtic woodcarving, a fellow named Clive O' Gibney.  I learned a great deal about cleaning up my work and he also taught me some new ways to decorate and refine the surface of the carvings.

There is quite a difference in carving styles between Clive and my family, I think the main reason for that is from how we each interoperate the art form itself!  With Clive's method he makes the carvings in a sort of "blown up" fashion that makes the hole form, positive and negative areas bigger.  In doing so it gives the worker the liberty to use the mallet nearly all the way though the project, giving you great speed.

The way I had always constructed my work up to the point prior to the trip was with a lot more detail, and many of the pieces described a story or mythological figure.  Much of my work that you can see in the galleries reflects on these two styles, and they both seem to (for the most part) remain apart from one another.  When I returned home I was full of ideas and inspirations to put into wood sculpture, but the growing does not stop there, in fact it was more of the beginning of my business and life's work.

My business officially began in 2001, and I continue to learn more things on my own through success and mistakes, working in more materials both local and exotic, and uniting them in projects and commissions of different proportions.  

In a short time, I began to examine other techniques of carving, and the popular concept of "chip carving" caught my eye.  In proper chip carving you do not use a mallet or gouges, but instead you employ the use of a very shape knife and softer woods like basswood and butternut.  The technique is more of a pulling or pushing of the knife through the material, popping out chips.


Picture taken 2002

The technique has some very strong points that can be, and indeed have been employed historically in Celtic art, I am delighted to say that I can use them as well.  As I have worked on my own developing my skill, there are many other concepts of carving that are coming to my attention that are of a great influence to the growth of my work.  Among them is the value of texture in sculpture, the great affects you can acquire making the surfaces rough, full of lines, groves, or very smooth, est.  The strength of totally cutting through a piece, perforations, to emphasize negative space, and in many cases this can be suggestive of a shape or form giving more life, and abundance to the art form.

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