The art of woodcarving

 

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Learning to carve wood has been a life goal for me, one that began when I was just a teenager and worked a menial job in order to buy my first set of twelve Henry Taylor carving gouges.

At the time, I searched for someone to teach me, but classical woodcarvers were not plentiful in the South in the early 1970s. As a matter of fact, I never found one. Carved furniture had hit a low point in popularity, and sleek, unadorned modern furniture was in vogue. My mother preferred it because it involved less dusting, and I fell into her pattern of buying furniture by assessing the number of swoops and valleys that could collect dust.

That said, my mother had a mahogany bedroom set she had bought for herself before she married. On the headboard was a carving of an urn with sinuous acanthus leaves rolling off to either side. The posts on the bedstead were reeded and carved also, and since I was the designated duster (in a house with nothing but brothers), I spent extra time running my dust cloth over the flowing acanthus carving, syncing my rhythm to the elegance and grace of its slow, winding tendrils and feeling a visceral satisfaction when running my cloth over the curved, reeded posts.

Life got in the way of my learning to carve, but an abiding love for wood kept me learning how it wanted to be worked. After a lifetime of woodworking, I have arrived full circle. With the advent of computer technology and master woodcarvers willing to teach via that medium, I’m learning to carve, and with practice, my skills will improve.  Mary May and Chris Pye, I can’t thank you enough.

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