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 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Happy Summer and Progress  


Dear Chris,
I'm guessing you are in Maine for the summer now.

I did want to tell you of my progress. I mostly finished carving the gothic leaf pattern than I saw in Work magazine. Almost done, I stopped for two, well three reasons. The first was I dropped my favorite tool and after resharpening it I lost momentum. but that's the trivial reason. The piece is too small which makes it harder for me and I need to look at a lot more leaves to get a better sense on what they look like. Trying to carve realistically does mean look at stuff a lot more than I do.

At the same time a week or so ago I found your leaf carving videos on your website and I realized my next project should be those three leaves. It will certainly help my overall technique. So that's what I am doing and low and behold the current issue of Woodcarving Illustrated has the same projects with patterns.

The other thing I learned - the hard way - is that I didn't realized that you use a very low tack spray mount and I have been using our regular stuff 77 - which never lets go. I reread your course book and now I need to track down a can of the photo mount stuff - which I will do in the next few days.

I am slow but I am learning and I hope you don't think I am slacking off. This summer has been hard because I am leaving the office every day at 4:15 in order to pick up my son from his camp bus. Slow and steady wins the race.


I certainly don't think you are 'slacking off'! I take you to be one of those who, when they have decided to sink their teeth into something, they won't let go! But I do know you have a very busty life. The important thing, which you are doing, is just to keep at it, as best you can. The 3 leaves is a great exercise, definitely have a go at those.


After this brief exchange of email I called Chris with some questions. The main thing from my point of view was right now my carving looks like a piece of wood with a leaf shaped object on it. When you look at work by Gibbons, the late 19th century Victorian tracery that I like so much, or Chris's own work, there are levels of realism, but all the carvings look like a leaf which happen to be made of wood. My question is how to get from here to there.
Chris's short answer was "practice". but his longer answer made more sense. His point is that if you carve (and to some extent to anything) and practice and get comfortable with the technique, eventually the technique disappears and you can carve what's in your mind's eye without your train of thought being interrupted by technique and so the work can flow. It's sort of like touch typing. Once you can touch type you can concentrate on what you are saying and the words just flow. Chris didn't say that anyone can come a Gibbons just by practice, there is certainly talent and aptitude at play here, but with practice, and learning, he expects me to pick up speed and that will allow what [minimal] artistic ability I have to bear fruit. Or leaves in this case.
He also said that I should carve all three leaves in the series (which are on video on his site but also detailed in the August issue of Woodcarving Illustrated) and then do it again until I can do a simple leaf in 10 minutes or so. The first one took me maybe about 40 minutes or more of actual carving, but even as I have just started the lowering the background of the second pattern (above) it is taking far less time, I am working far closer to the line, and the cuts themselves has more boldness to them. So I am optimistic all will go well.

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