Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carving: The Actual Class: Day 1: Continued

Believe it or not, that wealth of information I took in really only happened in about half an hour after morning tea. The practical element of the class began before that, when Jake presented us with our chisel and books. He said the first, most fundamental element of carving knotwork and other Celtic ornamentation was being able to draw it, because creating it brings your understanding to a whole new level, above that of just tracing it with your eyes or hands.

He introduced us to one of the most basic shapes: the trefoil knot, abounding in many forms throughout knotwork, appearing literally everywhere. It's a wonderful space-filler, whether part of a beast or as pure ornament. And it still looks awesome. He drew it, had us draw it, and then gave us each a slab of American walnut on which to draw it. Everyone's interpretation of the shape was different. The diversity of styles with such a seemingly simple shape was fascinating.

After that, it was pretty simple and went pretty quickly. Jake showed us first to use the skew chisel to carve pilot lines where we'd drawn, which would form the base for the rest of our cuts. Then we used the straight chisel at an angle to bevel the material on the outside of our shape, blending that with the initial surface of the wood. This is the essence of bas-relief sculpture, where the idea is the creation of an illusion of depth or protrusion by the use of shadows created by slight dips.

After that, he showed us how to help create the illusion of the diving under-over sections of the pattern, by chiseling deeply where one line is meant to appear to be curving under another. Finally, with these dimensions established, it was time to round the lines we'd carved, add embellishments, sand to smooth and deburr, and finally oil if we desired, which darkens the wood beautifully and defines contrasts and edges. Here is my trial piece after all but oiling: (Owen Bush carving away in the twilit background)

As you can see, I experimented a bit more with curves and shapes, but didn't finish that. That day's project ended around 5 PM and was followed by a much deserved group trip to "Fanny-on-the-Hill", Welling's local pub. I became used to this sight at sundown:

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