Monday, October 8, 2012

Carving the Camellia

Final Effort for Now!
     If you've read my blog in the past you'll know that relief carving is something I continue to pursue.  It's definitely more of an artistic endeavor than designing and building furniture.  With carving, you need to show an object on a fairly level plane but manipulate the wood and the edges of the design to make it appear to have more dimension than it actually does.  There's a style of painting that has a French term which I can't recall exactly, something like Tromp leis which means; "fool the eye".  My carving skills are evolving, you know they say that practice makes perfect but after all my years working with wood I realize perfection is not a term that relates to woodworking very often.  I mean really, think about it; wood is a natural material and even though the tree a board you work may have been dead for a long, long, time it's still a living material.  It's subject to the effects of humidity and when you work it the grain structure will determine how it cuts and reacts to your tools.
     In any case, most of my carving is self taught from books, videos, and watching others.  I did take a week long class that taught me a lot but you need to do this continually to build up that muscle memory and skills needed.  I recently enrolled in a video carving class by Mary May.  If you're interested in what she has to offer, here's a LINK to her site.  She's been on the Woodwrights Shop, written up in some of the woodworking magazines,  and has videos on YouTube as well.  I like her style of teaching, very thorough in her explanation and gives you more than enough information.  Each project has a template and list of recommended tools to complete it.  A real plus is that you can ask her questions and she'll reply via email.  I had a question on tool selection and she responded within 24 hours or so.  Carving is what's happening in the shop right now.  I'm waiting to hear from a potential client on Etsy that I've sent a design to for a custom box she's interested in.
     I recently ordered a bunch of Sapele that I plan to use for a sofa table that is in the planing stages.  I really want to add some carved details to this project which was another incentive for enrolling in the school.  Oh, by the way, the fee for the carving school is only $10.00 monthly; I'd say it's well worth it.
     Step one was to transfer the template to your board, since this is practice and I have it in my shop I'm using Basswood.  It's a pretty straight grained wood which makes it easier to carve unlike the Sapele I plan to use for the table!

Transfer & Initial Cuts

     One of the things I really like about her template is that she tells you to put all of the markings on it to help your work.  Those short, straight lines by the outline of the Camellia help you while you work.  The initial work is done with a V-chisel.  Once the entire design is outlined with it, various sizes and sweeps of gouges are used to refine the shape.  This is where I had a question since I don't have the exact, recommended ones.  Her reply was to use what I have and modify the design if needed.  In her video's she shows how to substitute and use what you have.
     Next comes the initial steps of creating motion and layers in the work.

Enhancing the Outer Leaves

     The goal here is to give the leaf a sense of undulation, just as you'd see in nature.  I've begun some of that on the upper, left hand leaf.
     Now the rest of the work begins, trying to create that sense of life from a relatively flat piece of wood.

Adding Texture

     Layering of this flower was an interesting process but in Mary's video she really explains how it should be done.  Notice I said "should" because I didn't quite nail it.  Her technique here was using different colored pencils to indicate which petals are on top and which go underneath.  A good friend of mine (Dennis) who is an excellent carver has told me that he'll really study plants and flowers to get a sense for how the carving should look.  Since I'm a nature boy myself I'll just have to take a bit more time not only smelling the roses but also checking out their form.  Of course, you know that here in the Las Vegas desert I will have some limitations!
     Until the next commission my plan is to do another one of these Camellia's right next to the first one.  The goal being improvement in the layering and dimensioning of the carve.  Honestly can't think of a better way to spend my time then to stand at the bench and improving my skill level.  You know what I've said before, life is not a spectator sport!

No comments:

Post a Comment