The State of Woodcarving in America today
It was my original intention to simply write something positive about the state of woodcarving today and post it on my site as something that could encourage a beginner. I wanted them to understand, what I, with no formal training, was able to accomplish in a short while. I wanted them not to be discouraged by their sometimes slow progress and to understand that woodcarving would only give to them, what they gave back to it.
I have spent the last few months in contact with carvers of all distinctions, in person, by e-mail, snail mail and by phone, from all corners of the USA and even from some foreign countries. I have met and spoken to some great carvers and have gotten to know them a bit more as people. I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to look beyond my immediate carving world and to touch the carving world as a whole. There will be no greater woodcarving education for me as long as I live. Thank You one and all for the experience!
When the idea of writing this dissertation developed, I understood that, although I am fully immersed in the field of woodcarving, that my only perspective was that of a recent novice, turned intermediate woodcarver. I do not at this time make my living from woodcarving but am on my way. It’s funny how I just feel it in my bones. There is no describing the feeling of having discovered one’s destiny. At this time, I do not have the years of experience and expertise that some other carvers have behind them. Being well aware of this shortcoming on my part, I thought it would be a good idea if I could go directly to those who are successful in the field of carving, either as full-time professional carvers, instructors, part time hobbyists or business people in the industry. I sent out emails to all those I know personally or have had internet contact with. I simply wanted to know what they thought about the state of woodcarving in America, today. I asked them for their personal opinions on this subject and told them that they could approach the subject in any manner they wished, from a historical vantage, a marketing perspective, as an artist, or just based on their personal experiences in woodcarving.
I appreciate each and every reply that I received in return. When the responses started rolling in, it was originally my plan to take bits and pieces of all the replies and turn them into a generalized ‘the state of woodcarving today’ collective opinion. But after reading all the replies, I felt these replies should be reprinted just the way that I received them, with only personal comments to me omitted from them. I learned so much in reading them and feel that there is no better knowledge and encouragement that any novice carver could ever receive. I feel that each reply is important enough to stand on its’ own merit.
That being said, here are the complete replies, in the order they were received.
What is the State of Woodcarving in America, today?
I’m a part time wood carver and a full time Commercial Real Estate Appraiser. I do have some thoughts on the state of wood carving and I will be more than happy to share them.
In my opinion, the art of woodcarving is not growing as fast as I would like. I belong to four different clubs, carve at Valley Road Woodcarving in Silver Dollar City, Missouri, and teach woodcarving at the local Vocational School where I live. In addition, I’m the President of the Lake of the Ozarks Woodcarving Club. I have held every office that the club has. Most of the carvers in all of these venues are in the older generation. We need to do something to attract younger folks into carving. While it is true that one must work harder and longer hours to make ends meet in today’s world, it is also true that one must find a way to relax to maintain their health.
I enjoy carving almost everything. Do I carve everything well? No, however, if I’m carving to sell, I carve what I know best. I enjoy carving Native Americans and the old west. However, if I’m carving to sell in my market area I generally carve Santa Claus, Angels, and Christmas ornaments. I have recently become very interested in fish carving. To me, there is nothing more satisfying that producing a realistic piece of nature. I have also found that there is a good market in my area for aquatic carvings.
Many feel that woodcarving is a craft and not art. However, I feel that it is a craft that can be brought up to art. Many carvers are perfectly happy just carving a small project for their own enjoyment and I think that is great. However, there are others that will never be happy with what they do and are continually striving to improve. To me, this is where the aspect of art comes into the carving arena. One person can carve a bust and it is craft. The next person carves the same bust, paying special attention to detail and does a masterful job of its presentation. This is where art comes into play. Not all carvings are works of art and that is fine as long as the carver enjoyed the process.
Woodcarving can be a full time venue for some. However, I have seen many good carvers not be able to make the kind of money that they need to make to sustain them in the manner that they would like. To me, if a person wants to become a professional woodcarver they should make sure that the area where they reside will support a full time carver. There are many areas in our country where a woodcarver would be out of business faster than it took to set it up. They should study the market to see what will sell and strive to become proficient in carving for that market. Personally, I love creating Native American carvings but they are very slow sellers in my market area. If I were to make my living in the Lake of the Ozarks region carving I would probably need to do architectural carving. In fact, many successful carvers work in this arena doing mantels, corbels, furniture carving, repairing antique carved furniture, etc.
Finally, I know many professional carvers. The most successful of those that I know offset their carving income by teaching carving. Can a person make a living carving? I believe so. However, I believe that they will need to be good at marketing, must carve marketable products, and will need to be very good at managing their time.
Loren Woodard Sunrise Beach, MO
Woodcarving Renaissance by George Chau
(originally printed as an article in Chip Chats magazine).
Based on my years of experience in retail and in woodcarving instruction, I am firmly convinced that we are about to enter a great period of woodcarving revival. However, there is a temporary gap of a few years which I can safely describe as our woodcarving “dark ages” – the period after elderly woodcarvers lay down their tools due to health and other reasons, and before the arrival of the next generation of woodcarvers.
For the decades past, I have taught woodcarving in colleges, community centers, and in my own studio. I have sold more than 1,500 pieces of woodcarving. In my experience, I have found that almost 99% of my students and customers were baby boomers, 60% of whom were women. Of course, I have the occasional student in his 80’s or her teens. Most of my students have demanding fulltime jobs. Some love woodcarving lessons so much that they are willing to travel 2 hours each way to attend.
Unfortunately, some of the woodworking-related businesses like Constantine’s and Woodworkers’ Warehouse in the New York Area, have been closing in recent years unaware of the approaching golden opportunities in woodcarving. Without information about where their future customers are coming from, they fade away along with the frugal depression-era generation of woodcarvers.
How will we find newer, younger replacements for the older generation of woodcarvers? We need not look too far. They are all over the country. Here are some facts:
1. There are 77 million baby boomers in this country (born between 1946 and 1964), ages 40-58.
2. They contribute 30% of the total US population – the fastest growing population.
3. Their current aggregate income is 4.1 trillion dollars – they own 80% of all money in savings accounts.
4. There are 42 million female baby boomers (54% of all baby boomers).
5. Baby boomers will enjoy longer, more productive lives than any previous generation in American history.
Just look around at what baby boomers are doing today – they practically run the country in every field. Guess who’s running woodcarving publishing companies? Who’s writing woodcarving books and articles? Who’s teaching and learning about woodcarving? If you haven’t noticed this phenomenon, just look out – these graying baby boomers are going to enjoy woodcarving as a hobby or pastime during their leisure or after retirement. Many of the woodcarving professionals are boomers who graduated from art schools 2 or 3 decades ago, and are still in the profession.
Assuming that our National Woodcarvers’ Association has a membership of 60,000, wouldn’t it be nice if we introduced even 1% of baby boomers to woodcarving? This would mean 770,000 more woodcarvers – almost 13 times more members that we currently have. Of course, this group would continue to do woodcarving for 30-40 more years before they pass the torch to their children.
Old woodcarvers don’t die – they just lay down their tools and fade away.
Friends of woodcarving are all welcome to contact me at (718) 544-0265 or visit my website at woodcarving.web.com. Those in the New York area are always welcome to visit my workshop.
New York City
Woodcarving by George
Forest Hills, NY
I feel a lot of people would like to consider woodcarving a fading art. However, I find it exciting and challenging. It’s harder than clay sculpting and you have to really think out what you are doing.
It seems to me that there are more people involved in woodcarving today. I can remember when I first started showing my carvings; I was the only lady competitor in our local club. Now there are several more and some of us are certified judges with the California Carvers Guild.
I have been carving since 1986 and first started showing in 1992 and won a red ribbon in that show. Since then, I have won many first places and best of show and other special awards.
Many of my carvings are sold through a gallery along with my paintings. I work full time and paint and carve only on a part time basis. I teach woodcarving and painting. One of my students will soon retire and he is so excited about woodcarving. He has said that this is the only hobby he has ever stuck with and he thoroughly enjoys it. His wife is thrilled that he has been involved with woodcarving.
Professional artist and woodcarver
My first statement is to dispel your illusion that I am a professional carver. However, I do expose many kids to the joy of removing chips from a piece of wood and influence them into walking away from my class with a visible reward for spending an hour or so with me. I give a safety lesson in the use of a sharp pocket knife and how to use carving strokes to safely remove chips.
My lessons start with a 15 to 20 minute safety class. Most users of pocket knives try to whittle with absolutely no safety devices, therefore I teach methods to keep them from making severe accidental incisions in their hands. The best method I have found is ‘thinking before any cut is made’. I do illustrate several methods that I use, and I do not use any artificial protection.
My favorite class is the making of willow type whistles. Most of the classes that I teach are things that can be made from green wood of opportunity. My criteria are; if I cannot do the project in less than 10 minutes, I will not teach it. The student will be able to walk away after a 2-hour session with a finished project.
Here in the Pacific Northwestern states we have the following skill levels, in order:
Beginner – First time exhibitor
Novice – Carving entries until 5 first place ribbons or 2 best of division in Novice
Intermediate- Until having won 2 Best of Division in Intermediate
Advanced – Until having won 3 best of division on 3 different carvings with one best of division having been won at each of 2 different PNC shows. (Pacific Northwest Carvers)
Expert – A carver may be classed as an ‘Expert’ in one field and allowed to compete as ‘Advanced’ in other fields. Upon qualifying as an ‘Expert’ in 4 of the 6 fields and winning a Blue ribbon in at the Expert level within each section the Expert Carver will achieve the distinction of Master Carver.
Novice or Intermediate can Challenge a level, (In Quilceda Carvers Show) by entering one carving in a higher level. If a Blue ribbon is received, the carver advances to that level.
I challenged Intermediate after 2 years and Advanced the next year. Both times I got a Blue. So, I am currently classed as an Advanced Carver.
I have been carving since 1996, but have carried a pocket knife most of my life
The main thing I sell is the Pocket Knife I purchase and modify into a three-bladed carving tool that I can carry in the watch pocket of my jeans. The knife has a carving blade (suitable for detail work), A 1/16 wide Vee tool and a 3/32 radius gouge. This tool is used for most of the carving I do. (I’m not a purist on this; I will use whatever tool I have that will do the job). My students use this knife. I use it more than 4 hours a day, every day.
Now, to address your question, maybe.
Sales; if you do not have an established reputation, people will only pay “craft prices”. So, most of my carvings go to family.
Artistry; the average person (I have encountered) says, “That’s beautiful, but I could never do that.” A statement that I argue with, sometimes successfully.
Chainsaw carvings are big and impressive and ugly (usually) and sell a lot faster for a lot more money than a small beautiful carving.
I am Wade Faries and am chief flunky of
Wade’s Wood, ETC (The name was picked to cover any aspect of wood and tools)
I live in Washington State most of the time (I’m a full-time RV’er)
I whittle most of the time, carve whimsical things sometimes and mostly make Hiking Staves with one or more wood spirits carved into them.
I have whittled since I was seven. That’s 65 years ago.
I entered my first carving show nine years ago. Got lucky with a second place ribbon and was hooked.
Looking at this from an instructors view it is my belief that wood carving in America exists in two sections, thriving in one and dying in the other. Thriving is the hobbyist section, the hobbyist being the one who carves for the love of it. This person shares their love of carving with all and keeps and values their work. These folks exhibit in our shows, our competitions. They attend our roundups and seminars. They share their pictures and projects and are our club members. As long as there are professionals producing new idea’s, patterns, rough out’s and workshops this will continue to thrive. This section has many with amazing talent but sadly are not with us very long because they take up their hobby at a late age. But then there have never really been very many young hobbyist’s these days and the ones that start young usually become our professionals. And this is where I believe wood carving is a dying art.
Restoration has gone the way of castings and foam. Acanthus and scroll work and carving blanks have gone the way of duplicating machines. Columns, capitols, gargoyles and furniture carving have gone both ways. Sign carving is even going to foam and duplicating. The old tool specific work is fading fast. The classically trained are fading out.
Ivan Whillock will continue to do religious work and sculpture, Joe Dillett will continue to produce fabulous deep relief mantels and Vic Hood will continue restoration work. But who’s stepping up to fill in? I suppose there will always be an occasional somebody that comes along but will they be a wood carver or an artist?
Ask America what a woodcarver is. I have. The most common answer I get is the folks that do the Santa’s and funny characters. Down here in the deep south its just plain old whittlin’.
The woodcarving image also gets publicly hurt when folks attempt to sell their work and devalue it just to make a sale. How in the world anyone can spend hours on a true work of art and then sell it for ten dollars or so is beyond me. I’ve heard too many comments like, “You want that for a piece of wood?”
Do you see turners and scroll sawyers devaluing their work? Or painters and photographers? Or baker’s and candlestick maker’s?
Down to Rondy
Greetings from the Great land. It is late here but I will pass on a few of my thoughts as woodcarving is also near and dear to me.
Woodcarving, if not a forgotten art form, but certainly straddles the fence between mainstream art forms like painting and bronzes, and what is commonly referred to as crafts. When selling carvings I have noted that many people find more value in a Bronze than in a one of a kind wood carving of a similar quality. Carvers more often show their wares at craft shows, bazaars and markets, than in Galleries, and Art exhibitions. I believe we hurt ourselves by not promoting our chosen art form as just that. Woodcarving certainly arose from a craft, as in Europe even today you can serve as an apprentice carver, and become a master “craftsman”. That is fine if you want to build furniture. It makes selling a fine woodcarving tough when you sit it beside a Marble sculpture. Woodcarving is a wonderful hobby and craft and nothing wrong with that…… Until you want commercial success as an “artist”. Don’t get hung up on that either. Making enough money to pay for tools, wood, and to supplement your income is a great deal, and a woodcarving hobby business can certainly do that.
The main recognized woodcarving subgroups are Waterfowl carving, Fish Carving, Character carving, Carousel carving, and chainsaw carving. I sight these groups as there are established customer pools in all of these groups who, although small in number compared to main stream art aficionados do recognize excellence and will pay for it. Generally there are national contests and or support groups for these main forms of woodcarvings. If your carving wanders out side of these groups, you will need to create your own style, and will be competing with main stream art forms for commercial success.
As an aspiring “commercial artist” you have committed to something that many artists won’t do. That is “coming out of the closet”.
There are many wonderful carvers in our local club who have some great works piling up around their houses and will not attempt to sell them. They are mostly afraid of rejections. Price too high and no one buys, your feelings are hurt and you go back in the closet. One of the great things around a local club, is that the give away ribbons and praise. We all need some of that. Put your stuff on a table and let people vote with their money, and now your ego is really on the line. Most people stay in the closet. The result is that you see a complete range of carvers out there selling. OK artists that are great marketers, and great artists that can not deal with marketing at all, and every other combination. You at least want to aspire to be “good” at both to get some money flow.
Here is a quick thought on Pricing. I make “show” pieces and “Commercial” pieces. The commercial pieces are ones that I can do repeatedly and reasonably quickly. Therefore I can sell them for a price that is a happy thing for everyone, and not price them like they are the only carving I did this year. Aspiring commercial artists need to get comfortable with that idea. Most carvings I do are worth a million dollars, until I have finished a few more, than I get a better perspective on my own work. Time and more carvings give perspective.
If you dig through my web site, you will see that I have done all kinds of carvings for money. Including Snow and Ice. Have fun, make chips. Sell something, Elevate the “art of woodcarving” to a new level in your world. Good luck.
Scott Thompson Alaskan artist www.scottthompsonart.com
At first, when pondering your question, I thought woodcarving today is not much different than the other arts like painting. Upon further consideration, for me, I think woodcarving is better. In 1970 when I decided to do woodcarving as a part-time business the uniqueness of the art form helped in getting my business started. Here in 2005 woodcarving is more popular but there are some that still think it is a dying art. From the beginning I found it necessary to educate people about woodcarving as well as get others interested in trying it. Marketing is my strong point. I’ve always considered myself a salesman trying to become a woodcarver. It seems like from the beginning my backlog went out 2 years or more. Carving family histories on mantels makes up about 60% of my business. The other 40% is architectural carving for churches, homes and businesses as well as some patterns for industry. The security of my business is that I’ve always been able to maintain years of backlog, a Wish List of customers waiting to have their history carved on a mantel.
In the early 90’s I outgrew my home studio and found it necessary to build a larger studio, this one away from home. That is when I took my business full time. I’ve started 6 apprentices who are about half way through a 4-year program one of which works for me. When the economy was poor I was blessed with lots of work. In the last year, as the economy improves, my business is exploding. We receive about 4 requests for quotes per week resulting in a strong work schedule. We joke about our new motto, “We can do anything, however it’ll be expensive.”
To answer your question about the state of woodcarving today, I believe it is stronger than ever. I believe it is not viewed among the top art forms, like bronze or painting. However woodcarving can be as rewarding and any other art form along with being a successful business provided you approach it like any other successful business. Successful businesses require good business practices, good marketing, good pricing to cover your total costs as well as giving your customer a good value for their money. I believe the biggest key is marketing and screening your clients, only working with clients who are interested in your success.
There is a difference between woodcarving as a hobby and doing it for a living. I thought that I would lose the love of carving if I did it as a business. The opposite has been true. I am more obsessed with woodcarving than when I started. The main difference is with woodcarving for a living is that every piece must be of good quality to give the customer good value for their money but there isn’t time to make each piece gallery quality like if you were doing it as a hobby. The other difference is almost everything I do is commissioned so I hardly have anything to show where hobbyist can fill their table with gallery quality carvings.
Well I’ve rambled enough.
Joe Dillett The Carving Shop Somonauk, IL.
As I contemplated the question posed, “What is the state of woodcarving in America today?” it suddenly occurred to me, compared to when?
I started whittling in 1967, and thinking back to that time, there was, in effect, one book on the subject, which remains the definitive work, Tangerman’s “Whittling and Woodcarving”. And there were virtually no sources of tools beyond X-acto “carving sets”, at least as far as the general public was aware. The professional woodcarver was rare; the classic Master almost non-existent in the USA. The demand for the woodcarving trade had long since faded with the modernization of building styles and materials, and the hobbyist woodcarver had yet to be fully discovered: he was out there, but the suppliers had not yet realized the market and how to best exploit it.
Today, he has been discovered, and it is, just as often, she. And both have been tapped as a market. Scores of books now fill any book listing or store that has a woodcarving supply section; books on most any aspect of woodcarving, or any specific project you could desire. The quality varies immensely, both in content and form, but word quickly spreads when an especially effective book becomes available. And there are hundreds of small stores and retail outlets that specialize in supplying the needs of the woodcarver, as well as featured sections in major tool suppliers to the woodworking trade.
There remains the absence of the true classically trained Master woodcarver, for his work is gone, and there is no sufficient demand to justify the intense training and commitment required to become a Master woodcarver. Personally, I know three in existence, two of whom quit the field, and the third went professional before completing a full apprenticeship.
Still, if you allow a wider definition of the term woodcarving than that skill practiced by a classically trained Master, I suspect there are many more woodcarvers working away on bits of wood now than at any other time. Today, you are likely to run across someone who carves in any group gathering, or often in the most surprising places. A few weeks ago, while visiting the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, as I came around the path at the end of the manatee viewing area, there, sitting at a park table with a box of tools and a board, sat a local man happily working on a new sign as a gift for the park.
The true state of woodcarving is not always apparent, for many engage in the activity in solitude and unnoticed. One of the positive aspects of this is the wide variety that emerges in this isolated invention of woodcarving technique and style. In an interview I did with E J Tangerman in 1991 (see footnote) we touched upon these matters. In commenting on the show we were at, The annual Vermont Show in Morrisville, he said, “I’m amazed at the quality of things that are here, very good, and a tremendous variety, which I think is healthy. It’s not everybody making the same sort of thing. I haven’t been to a show for some time, but this is a big show, and an extremely healthy one.”
Later in that same interview, he commented on the question of the state of woodcarving in the 30’s, when he did his first writing, a pamphlet for Remington Arms, a company that made knives at the time: “Remington distributed 750,000 free. They had to increase their production of pocket knives by five! Nobody there had any idea of such a market. Everybody was saying that whittling was dying. There was no indication that it was not true!… For a field that’s dying, it’s showing quite a bit of health, isn’t it?”
The woodcarver in America today is you: the hobbyist woodcarver; or the talented, generally self-trained woodcarver who has found a niche and made a business of it; or the one who has mastered business and marketing skills and succeeded more through that than fulfilling an existing demand with classical skills.
The successful woodcarver today has to create the demand for his product.
Many have done so, and succeeded in making a business success of it. But the vast majority of woodcarvers today are still the hobbyists who do it simply for the joy of creating, and sharing a bit of themselves with those they love.
[(Footnote) The complete interview is in Jud’s book, “Me & Tange…” available at lulu.com/JudPub]
P.O. Box 1489
Homosassa FL 34447
IMHO, as long as North American carvers avoid going the route of European carvers in establishing carving as a trade… with Apprenticeships, journeymen standing, trade secrets, etc., it should continue its present course of being innovative, creative and unrestrained by rules that come out of traditionalism. Traditionalism in the arts is any system of rules which retrains and bridles creativity and freedom. Traditionalism is the exact opposite of tradition.
Tradition is the living legacy of carvers now dead. Traditionalism is the dead legacy of carvers still living. Bird carvers, in my opinion, are the group among carvers most at risk of falling into traditionalism, and this is due to the largely competitive nature of bird carvers and their organizations. Competition breeds rules, and rules turn in to legalistic regulations which in turn crush creativity.
Blessings and Peace,
A few random thoughts:
Woodcarving is like any other activity today, be it golf, fishing, or knitting, there are a few individuals that take the hobby to a seriously high level of artistry, a group that takes the hobby too seriously and wants to make it a very competitive affair, and the majority that enjoys the simple pleasure of the hobby.
Like any other hobby, the commercial aspect of carving is getting more intense. What used to involve a sharp pocketknife and a chunk of pine now involves a shop full of expensive tools, flexible eyes and pewter feet, exotic woods and Internet marketing. Hats off to those who still enjoy the fun of creation more than the assembly of something a little too perfect.
I’m surprised with your struggle to find info on carving. There has been an explosion of info on carving in the last ten years from the basics to details and from simple patterns to complex intersections with art forms.
Finally, like too many things the commercial side of carving is changing due to the ability of foreign carvers to ship their products to the US. Some of these carvers retain their local customs and methods but many are being hired to mimic American styled carvings. The flood of cheap carvings has ruined the market for Americana or rustic arts. Chinese carvings are on EBay in great numbers. I was saddened to hear recently that carving in Lithuania is just about dead. Apparently the communists snuffed it out trying to make the Lithuanians good communists.
I have been carving for about 15 years and enjoy carving realistic birds and fish, an occasional folk style Noah’s ark and one Santa a year for my wife.
First I will give you a little background on myself. I started caving in 1985 and was taught by local neighbor that has since passed away. He and I had a common interest in the art of Wood Carving. I have studied under Mr. Harold Enlow, Rex Branson, and Debbie Edwards just to name a few. I really enjoy carving everything such as Santa’s, Indians, Cowboys, animals, fish, and some birds. I am at the present time trying to get into more fish and bird carving. The name of my little venture is Bayou Creations.
At this time it is a part time hobby that I use for stress relief, which seems to work. I work full time for the Federal Government and try to carve at least every evening for a period of time. I am in the process of teaching another person that has a strong interest to learn at this time. I have won many Best of Shows with my carvings and at the latest show I attended I won 5 first places in various categories, Best of Show, and Best Table Display.
Now to your question….Carving is something that everyone wants to try but the dedication to improve and get better is not there in some people. Seems that most people think that if they can’t turn out a winning piece they give up. Is it a dying art? At the present time I think a few years ago it was making a come back real strong but today like everything else it may have been just a fad for some folks. At the present time it is still popular but with the hard work and dedication it takes will probably take a turn downward.
Grand Cane, Louisiana
I would characterize myself as a part time professional wood carver. In a good year I might make around 15% of my income from carving. I made my first carving in 1967 while a student at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville; TN. Olen Bryant was my teacher. I produce anywhere from one or two to a dozen or so carvings each year, with asking prices varying from $40 to around $1500. I don’t have any particular specialty, but portraiture is my current favorite genre. Lyneart is the name of our web site but we have no official business title. (I shipped a carving to a lady in California. She made the check out to Lyneart. I thought for a while I wasn’t going to be able to cash the check.)
I am not widely traveled, nor do I subscribe to any magazines that address the subject of wood carving, therefore I am not particularly knowledgeable about the ‘big picture’ of wood carving in America or even in the state of Kentucky. I can say that in my opinion, art isn’t a field in which forward progress is cumulative, as in the hard sciences, for instance. Different stuff is made here and there at different times by different people. I couldn’t buy a clue as to how to define the parameters of the state of wood carving in America. I am willing to meander around the subject some more if you like. Maybe with enough random key tapping I might produce some accidental insight.
Near Dot in Logan County, KY
A daunting subject. I personally believe that woodcarving in the USA, the entire globe for that matter is solid. There are enough carvers who have taken reality to new, never before seen heights. Where European carvers and woodworkers in the 18-19th C carved rather stylized figures of people and animals in furniture and residential interiors today’s carvers’ detailed renditions of living creatures are far and away better than anything ever seen. We have wood burners, power carvers to assist us in detailing where our predecessors did not. Some even resist using these contemporary tools preferring only mallets and chisels and knives. I’ve done both and today prefer power carvers, knives and wood burners.
In another vein, the early and current carvers of religious sculpture are some of the finest figure carvers and rival anything ever created in marble or other stone centuries ago in Western Europe.
However, having said the above, the general art collecting world still is not ready to forsake wall hung art, i.e.; painting. Lots of color to match the walls, floor covering and furniture. Among the vast majority of buyers offset prints outsell all others because of cost and a general lack of art education.
I can afford to create wood sculpture and enjoy doing so. For permanence, bronze sculpture is superior. Few collectors are interested in sculpture because someone else tells them what is “hot “and what is not.
Do I sound bitter? I might be. I’ve had this discussion with collectors, gallery owners and the general public. My work is well received but few are willing to spend the money necessary for whatever reason. I guess that the buying public understands Paintings and doesn’t understand sculpture. The ones that do like sculpture prefer bronze but can’t afford it. I do both but can only cast bronze if a client is willing up front to spring for it. In other words, bronze gets the respect and wood does not. Obviously people do buy wood sculpture from notable sculptors but I feel that this is a very small percentage of the outstanding art available. I guess the great divider is cost. A one of a kind wood sculpture should command a significant price and in some cases receives it but not nearly as often as it should.
Well my friend, there’s lots more to say about this but this is the nut of problem and you will most likely find someone to refute all of the above as someone is purchasing all they can turn out at fair prices. I hope this helps.
Woodcarving today is far from obsolete as assumed by so many people. This assumption often comes from the observation that churches and governmental buildings today rarely display, if any, woodcarving. It can be seen in cathedrals of the middle ages when the church was the primary employer of woodcarvers. Today woodcarving flourishes in the hands of hobbyists, many who carve as well or better than some of the carving of yesteryear simply because they have the time and leisure to do so and are not tied to a timeline and/or cost. In the years that I have been carving, I have seen the level of competence in competition rise tremendously. Carving is also more diverse than ever before. This can be seen easily in caricature, bird carving, and chip carving, the area in which I specialize.
My name is Wayne Barton, my company name is The Alpine School of Woodcarving, and though I studied formally in Switzerland in all forms of carving, I specialize in chip carving. I have been voted Woodcarver of the Year for 2005. I actually started at the age of 5 with my grandfather and have been carving ever since in one form or another.
Focus: new carvers/hobby carvers
“To me the future of woodcarving is outstanding. There is fantastic potential out there with over 77 million baby-boomers reaching retirement age over the next 20 years. My current businesses and future businesses are specifically targeted to this market. However, woodcarving can also be overwhelming … and some businesses are afraid to move into this market for lack of knowledge and experience. This is the challenge that I am looking forward to exploring.”
Focus: professional woodcarvers
“I see woodcarving growing more quickly in the hobby arena than for the professional carver. I know many woodcarvers that are hurting for work. From my experience you have to love what you do … it may be very difficult to get paid for all of the time put into a carving and there is a very limited market for their work. However…. hopefully the times are changing and the desire for handcrafted items grows stronger. I’d like to see people supporting their local artists rather than going down to the Super Mega Mart and buying gifts there. “
– I have been involved with woodcarving for 30 years
– We have developed several woodcarving related businesses
– My main income is sales of woodcarving tools & supplies (distributor)
Mary Ellen Dukes
Well, in my VERY limited view (as I haven’t been woodcarving that long), I think the general population doesn’t think much about wood carving. When they do, I think their attitude is that it’s just a nice hobby.
From MY point of view, I look at woodcarving as a form of artistic expression. I got into woodcarving because I needed an outlet. I’ve always been creative, and you can only crochet so many afghans and sweaters. This desire to create something with wood came to the forefront when I became a field editor for Woodworking for Women and read several articles in there about woodcarving.
From the seller’s point: As there aren’t that many people I know around here who value woodcarvings as a form of art, I don’t think woodcarvers here could command a very high price for their work. Wouldn’t I just love to change that! I’m still not very sure what type of carving I want to do, but I am leaning toward reliefs and/or jewelry right now. I have a few ideas already about some original reliefs, but I need experience before I can produce anything near marketable quality. I’m hoping by this time next year I’ll be at least creating nice looking pieces I’d be proud to have in my home.
I’m DREAMING that some day I’ll be able to sell quite a few of my carvings for decent prices and will have a rep for producing beautiful pieces of art.
Mary Ellen Dukes
I’m afraid that carving is dying in the US. Most of the carvers are older people and as they die out there are very few youngsters to take their place. When I started carving 10 years ago I was invariably the youngest member of any carving group- at 49. Now, there are a few younger than I am, but probably fewer than 3% of any given carving group.
The boy scouts have long been a source of new carvers, since they had a carving merit badge. I guess there may be fewer kids interested in scouting today because of all the other activities vying for their attention.
I’m sure that there will always be a core group of die-hard carvers (like me) that just love to play with wood and appreciate the infinite challenges provided by attempting to make something out of a hunk of wood.
We will continue to be an older group because most of us are retired folk who have recently found the time to do what we want to do.
Professional carvers are few and far between and they must work very hard to make a living at doing what they love to do. They need to find a niche, something marketable, and fill it. Not too many are successful.
The public, for the most part, does not value the time, effort, and skill involved in carving wood. They look at garage sale, made in China/Thailand, carvings and then at our work and can’t figure out why we want so much more. That is why so many carvers make reproductions of their work to sell at lower prices.
(This opinion was written in reply to the last response)
“I’m afraid that carving is dying in the US. Most of the carvers are older people and as they die out there are very few youngsters to take their Place.”
I am afraid I have to disagree with you… In my area Southwestern Lower Michigan… Woodcarving is the fast growing area of woodworking… in just the past 5 years there have been two new woodworking clubs formed and both of them have memberships of over 40 people.. They are active and do woodcarving demonstrations throughout the area and the one sponsors a big Woodcarving show every fall.. As well as having one of the US’s largest and most prominent woodworking shows that takes place in Valparaiso in every May…..
I believe that one of the reason that woodcarving in this area is growing is due to that fact that more and more people who live in condo’s or apartments and do not have room for workshops still feel the need to work with their hands and love wood . Woodcarving allows this without the need for any large tools…. I work at a specialty woodworking store that sells tools and lumber and the greatest growth in sales has been in both the woodcarving sections both in carving tools and in books and magazines… and if you think this is only a local trend consider that within the past few years how many new woodcarving books have been published the last several years…. Fox Chapel probably has more books on Woodcarving than any other single area of Woodworking… plus the new magazine Woodcarving is doing very well….If Woodcarving were not growing as a trend these companies would not be jumping on the bandwagon…
That said I must say that sales of Woodcarving and Woodcrafts have fallen off greatly over the past few years…. I made my living selling Wooden Toys and gift item for almost 25 years.. Traveling throughout the Midwest and the east doing major Art and Craft Shows and selling to gift and museum shops through the United States….. That market is no longer there due in major part to the influx of imports…. Very few Americans will pay the price of handmade goods when they can buy similar items at Target, Wal-Mart, Pennies, and Kmart for half the price….There are still some exceptions but Poor Quality Craft Shows throughout the Midwest at least, filled with the same import items being passed off as handmade have caused a lot of potential buyers not to even go…
I think carving is anything but a dying art. Contemporary artists like Teri Embrey and Shawn Cipa and Susan Lordi show us that it is possible to make a living as a professional carver. Susan’s Willow Tree figurines are cast in resin from her original carvings, and are mass-produced and sold at a lower price than original pieces (which may offend the purists), but I also think that helps to promote the idea of carving as collectable art.
There will always be people who would rather buy a cheap knock-off from Asia instead of an authentic original, but that applies to any art form, whether carving or fine furniture or painting or quilting or knitting. My husband turns segmented bowls, and would like to sell some (you can only have so many bowls sitting around the house!), but we have been amazed at how little they bring on e-Bay. But, I also know of a woman who sells her pieces for upwards of $900 apiece. I think you need a bit of luck and a bit of persistence to create your niche in the market.
I only started carving this past January, and I’m still working from other people’s patterns. Before I started carving I would look at carved pieces and think, “That’s cool, I wish I could do that.” Now, as I grow as a carver, I look at carved pieces and think, “That’s cool, I wish I could do that…can you imagine how many HOURS went into that piece…how in the world do they DO that…and…” I like to think that someday I will progress to the point where I can create something of my own design.
I recently taught a lunch-time carving class to a dozen co-workers. Some have stuck with it and will probably continue to carve, some have not, but they all commented on how much harder it was than they thought it would be. So, education is also a part of the equation. People need to understand what goes into a work of art in order to place a value on it.
I’m obviously not an authority on this, so please take this as one person’s opinion. Best wishes on your dissertation. Let me know when it’s finished as I would like to read it, too.
Background: First degree in fine art (painting, sculpting, etc.), CPA And MBA in Finance from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Accounting/Finance workaholic for about 25-30 years. Took up carving about 4-5 years ago after not doing much artwork while I was putting in 12-16 hour days. Have left accounting/finance early and am in the process of setting up my own carving/sculpting studio. (yes, I’m both right and left-brained)
I think that woodcarving is being rediscovered in America as a way to relax from the stresses of everyday life. Unfortunately, not enough of the beginners are young people.
I think that too many carvers undervalue the worth of what they create. Maybe that’s an influence of cheap labor elsewhere so that you can buy production carvings at a very low price, but some of the fault has to go with carvers here for not educating and demonstrating what it takes to carve that Santa or bear. Most of the people who I see actually making a living from carving are either architectural carvers, artists who also carve in wood and tend to teach, people who publish and teach or the rare person who has “streamlined” their carving of particular items so that they can turn out a lot of them fast.
I spent some time over in England and found it very interesting that one of the top carvers over there carves an absolutely fantastic original that goes for high bucks, but works with a casting studio to do limited edition cold cast bronze copies of those works at a slightly lower price. That gives the artist the chance to truly recoup/capture the $/hour that he should be getting for the fabulous pieces he generates… knowing that most people wouldn’t pay the full price just for the one.
As an artist, I’m disappointed in some of the finishing of carved pieces. It’s a shame to see paint glopped onto what is a fine carving…. but that is more a question of educating which I try to do in a small way with the carving group I’m part of by example and demonstration.
There are projects for people of all skill levels in carving. I think that it’s a marvelous way to relax and get in touch with yourself. I like it ’cause it allows the child in me to come out and play and the adult to bring that play into the realm of reality.
There are several things one can look at to determine the “health” of woodcarving. One is the number of magazines. Up until a few years ago there was only one dedicated to woodcarving in the US, Chip Chats. Now there’s three or more with more articles in other magazines.
Another thing is the number of non-show gatherings. Different parts of the country have different names for these gatherings, but generally they encourage carving with a lot of fellowship, a number of carving tips, and mini-lessons. We call them Rendezvous; some other places call them Roundups. I think these, no matter what the name, are great and encourage all levels of carving.
The judging in juried shows seems to be getting better, or maybe I should say more consistent. Judges are getting better training with the judges’ organizations.
Another thing I see is more and more places that sell carving supplies.
All in all I believe that wood carving in a growing activity as a hobby. Can you make a living at it? As with any artistic endeavor, some can, some can’t.
Speaking of artistic. I’m seeing more artistic expression than was present a few years ago. I’m not sure if it’s because there is more artistic expression or just because there’s more carvings. I would like to think the artistic impression is also growing.
Woodcarving has many things to offer many different people.
Some just like to have something to do with their hands while sitting around.
It’s an artistic outlet for others.
For a few it’s a living.
For me it has several attractive aspects. It started as something to do while backpacking.
It grew into a valuable artistic outlet. It also have brought me close to many people that I now call friends.
For a number of years now I have been seeing a lot of people trying their hand at carving, and then giving it up. As Membership Secretary for the New England Woodcarvers, I notice that many people join the club but never renew after the first year. For what ever reason they move on.
When I became active in woodcarving (1970), NEWC had about fifty members and they ALL exhibited at mall shows. Today we have trouble fielding perhaps 15 or 20 carvers who will take a table or a booth…and that is out of 600 -plus members. The Green Mountain Wood Carvers in Vermont tell me their August show will be smaller than last year when we had perhaps 20 exhibitors. And this year they are introducing competition, with very little interest being shown.
Our every-other-month carving session fills a hall with carvers teaching or wanting to learn. Carving is strictly a “hobby” today, not an obsession. Most of my weekly students only seem to carve in class.
There appears to be still a lot of interest in Carving. They just don’t want to “get involved”. Like a lot of organizations today, carvers want to join a club, “but don’t ask me to become “active”.
Started carving at age 11, and still counting.
Member, Membership Secretary, and Past President of the New England Woodcarvers
Member: Green Mountain Wood Carvers, Mystic Carvers club, Connecticut Wood Carvers Guild, Texas Carvers Guild. US Regional Leader for the British Woodcarvers Association. Have been teaching Woodcarving for about 30 years.
Lynn E. Diel
Thanks for the invite for input. I would gauge myself as an expert carver (not master carver yet ;). As a guest carver at Branson’s Silver Dollar City, I carve with a lot of different folks from all over the Midwest. There are over 75 carvers who are guest carvers and have works of art for sale. In the Branson/Springfield area, they have over 350 registered carvers in the various clubs.
One thing I see as a guest carver is the number of folks who stop by admiring the carvings. I talk to them and if they are interested I direct them to their local club as well as give them the websites for the free tutorials. Most say they want to carve when they retire and I tell them why wait, take whatever time you can to learn. I am a firm believer that there is a technique as well as an art to carving. The techniques you can learn and the art is from the heart. As children stop by, I will carve a little spirit face in a 1″x1″ x 4″ block and talk about the tools and the techniques. I discuss the art as we decide what type of eyes or mouth the spirit will have. When I get done, I give it to the child and they are elated. The parents sometimes are interested and other times not.
This year, I was blessed with the opportunity to offer carving classes for kids during the Kid’s Festival. I am doing this for 3 days each month during the festival. The first one was the opening days of the festival and I was able to work with 8 different children ranging 6 years old to 12. I worked with them and they carved and painted little cowboy boots out of the Balsa foam. I believe that these children will have an appreciation of carving and perhaps want to continue. The object is to get a spark to light.
I can’t think of a better opportunity than to demonstrate the craft and remove some of the mystic that some folks put around it. With all the high-tech gadgets and toys, kids are lacking their ability to think and create on their own. I think that they only way children of tomorrow will appreciate the art and craft of woodcarving is to experience the joy of creating something themselves.
Lynn E. Diel
As a director in OWCA (Ontario woodcarving association) we are regrouping, with the future in mind!!! adding enthusiastic youth to the executive and trying to expand our exposure efforts in the schools with “woodcarving classes” in an attempt to increase what we call” bench-strength”—at the same time arrangements are in place to physically expand our annual “show” and attract 20,000 interested people instead of a 1000 mildly interested individuals–this again is a major effort to insure the viability of our “ART”—your attempt will certainly pay dividends, as time goes by—warm regards as always
Hugh Thompson (skincarp)
My opinion may not be worth too much as I’m out of the carving “mainstream” here in far northern California. I don’t get to more than one or two shows a year. That being said, my opinion is that interest in wood carving is declining a bit. I’m primarily a figurative or caricature carver and it seems like the bloom is off or at least a bit tarnished in that genre. I could be wrong, but it feels like there are fewer new books on the subject as well, which is an indication of lessening interest. I hope I’m wrong as I still enjoy my carving and want to see new and innovative carving subjects and carvings.
Well, I’m a wannabe wood carver. I am 43 and have 4 children. My two boys were in cub scouts and boy scouts and I had my interest in carving re-kindled by their work on the woodcarving merit badge. I have always been fascinated by things rustic & handmade – rustic furniture, Adirondack camps, rustic & folk art. As well as a love of nature & art incorporating natural elements.
Unfortunately, living & working in the NYC area means that I spend 3+ hours per day commuting, so my time for pursuing woodcarving is quite limited. I tracked down a woodcarving club in my area of Orange County NY using the internet, and actually went to a few meetings. It seemed to me that I was by far the youngest person there. Maybe it’s because in this area the only people with time to actually carve are retirees whose children have grown and who no longer have to work full time.
I am hoping to develop enough skill to make a little additional income, and create some fun & whimsical carvings to bring a smile to people, and some beautiful artwork to help others appreciate the beauty of nature. Assuming of course I can ever find the time to actually carve – as opposed to reading about it on the internet and in books. <sigh>
Maybe the best people to give opinions on this subject are the merchants of wood carving products. I am an intermediate carver from north Georgia, carving caricatures as a hobby. While I have been more “involved” with clubs, shows, etc., in the past, my love of woodcarving hasn’t decreased at all. I love anything about woodcarving; books, magazines, websites, absolutely anything. I have been carving on and off for about 10 years. When I first started, I joined the Atlanta Woodcarving Club and one or two local clubs. I became bored with that after a while, but I think that is just my nature. It just wasn’t all that rewarding or helpful. I don’t see as many new “how to” books coming out as I did a few years ago and that is disappointing because I like to purchase and read those as well. The last couple of years I had stopped carving altogether and that was a disappointment to me. So I attended a couple of classes this year and I have a renewed interest which I hope remains high. There are some enormously talented carvers out there who create beautiful artwork, so I hope interest isn’t waning.
I think woodcarving is alive and strong. A member of our club gave a talk & demonstration at a school in his town. There were a number of young people very interested; school was out for the summer before any organization could be completed. He will pickup in the fall where he left off. Our club, Kaw Valley Woodcarvers, in Topeka, Kansas are discussing putting forth the effort to contact schools, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, churches, 4-H clubs, & any other youth organizations we can think of. We believe the interest is there, we just need to inform the youth how to get in touch with us and then work with them. Our club needs youth participation badly and we intend to work to get it. There are carving seminars being scheduled and held well
attended worldwide. Monitor the Woodcarver’s List — most of it’s messages lately have been about attending shows/competitions/seminars; with all this excitement how can it be waning? Woodcarving is a worldwide hobby &
vocation. Most things cycle in popularity. It is possible that woodcarving is on the down swing, but personally I don’t think so.
Kaw Valley Woodcarvers Association
I would like to think that we have come a long way in carving in the USA, in that we are more willing to share ideas outside our individual homes and shops. The gift of carving is and always will be in the eyes of the beholder, but the extent of the gift is now being shared with others (even if it is only within the family arena). People who have felt self conscientious or inferior of their work to others are accepting there talents within the bounds of themselves – which is all we can expect.
I still feel we are in need of sharing our works, and not always for a ribbon or trophy, but to attract the next generation into this world of carving for personal pleasure. I had the experience of learning from two wonderful Master Carvers; one in the USA and the other in Austria, but only after the age of 50. When I was 12 yrs of age I had the fortune of learning woodcarving in the classroom, but because of occupation, marriage, and children, it only became a part of me on a pleasurable basis after the age of 50. One cannot regret the past, but learn to extend from it the future to others. I have won ribbons, and other honors, but none exceeds the personal pleasure of completing a project that I feel good about.
Palm Desert, CA
I’ve only been carving for about 5 years now. I think the opportunities in carving are tremendous with the vast numbers of carvers around the globe. I’ve been intrigued by the willingness of carvers to share their talents, skills and information with each other. Unlike many other things I’ve been involved in, I don’t sense a competitive spirit between carvers. Instead they want to share what they are doing and what they have learned to help pass carving on to the next generation of carvers.
I’m saddened that others in the Arts don’t see carving as an art form. I believe we need to do all we can to promote carving as art because it probably pre-dates most of what is passed off as art today.
Knotholes Woodcarvers List
Mike and Patty
I’m impressed with the kind of carvers this country has. All (but one) have been helpful and not self-centered.
It’s like the German that helped Jessie Owens beat him in the Olympics. They want to see others do better and as a result it shows that they are better.
I am a very good self taught carver with a lot to learn and may I never stop learning.
I hope this is something that will help & that you are looking for God bless.
Rev. O. Michael Wilcox
We recently had a discussion of this topic on another list to which I belong. I believe that woodcarving is in an accelerated state of transition. When I started carving, around 1980, “Chip Chats” was still in its infancy, there were few carving tool suppliers, even fewer classes and clubs were usually just a few individuals who met once a month to carve. Most of us were doing carvings that were fairly primitive by today’s standards. Painting and finishing has come even further than carving techniques. However, we still have problems and, in general, are hoisting ourselves on our own petard. I posted the following on the other list:
…..We woodcarvers are capable of creating art. But, the art that is created is too often reduced to craft by we practitioners.
It seems almost impossible for woodcarvers to enjoy a carving for the beauty of the finished product. It is far more important that it meet one or all of the following: it must be carved from only one piece of wood, carved only with hand tools, have all of the correct number of tail feathers showing in a bird to be judged in the realistic category so that everyone is aware that the carver had this knowledge. It must be carved without sanding, all portions of the carving must be carved rather than have some artificial object as part of the scene, a carving is apparently better if carved from some woods rather than others, painted rather than unpainted and at a recent show I even heard the demand that all carvings must be firmly attached to the base.
Why, is the esteem given to a carving directly related to the difficulty of workmanship rather than the artistic quality of the piece?
Are the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel greater art because the artist was in a difficult position while painting?
…Let’s talk to one another about the technicalities of power carving versus hand tools, the advantages of one wood rather than another or even the fact that a particular piece might be better carved from tupelo rather than basswood; walnut rather than butternut.
But, let’s realize that it is the finished product that is the final judge and, unless we are truly carving only for ourselves, it is the pleasure or appreciation of the viewer that determines success or failure. We are poised on the brink of woodcarving being accepted as art rather than craft. For most of us (average woodcarvers) this will make little difference; but, crossing this bridge will remove the shackles we place on ourselves and allow woodcarving to evolve even faster.
To summarize: we must quit squabbling over the way a piece is produced and concentrate on its originality and composition; and, we must improve the quality of judging at shows. Being a good carver does not make one a good judge. We need more uniform standards and some form of qualification for our judges. Take a look in Chip Chats and it is immediately apparent that, with any real competition, most of the pieces holding ribbons would not have won.
Its exciting to be a woodcarver in this time of transition. I am enjoying the results of it becoming a major hobby. Everything is improving. Tools and wood are much more available. Carving clubs are everywhere. Instructors are beginning to teach at home rather than travel to clubs. There are even a few instructors who are beginning to take on students on an hourly basis, much the same as other artists and musicians. The qualities of the carvings are moving up at a greatly accelerated rate.
In spite of ourselves we are becoming artists.
Old Joe Brott
My opinion is that the state of wood carving in America 2005 is Healthy and Well.
Wood carving as a hobby is popular throughout America.
There are many good wood carving books, videos, web sites and a few email discussion lists available today.
Wood carving work shops are conducted in most states. Wood carving clubs and meetings are available in most cities, as well as many small communities. These seem to be organized around one or more dedicated experienced carver/instructor.
Wood carving tools and supplies are offered by a large number of regional dealers. Prices for wood carving tools and supplies are similar to other woodworking and craft tools or supplies.
Wood carving sales seem to increase or decrease as the economy changes and the public interest in hand made art and craft changes. The current large growth of low priced imports and castings of wood carvings has had a serious negative impact on many local carving show sales.
Wood carvers who produce high quality art work seem to generate good sales volume.
Any carver, who develops a niche product and teaching, plus adequate marketing effort, seems to generate good carving income.
A few dedicated art carvers, and architectural carvers seem to be doing well.
Old Joe (Joe Brott), age 80, 2005
I believe my main concern for the future of carving is the lack of young people doing it. Perhaps it is because carvers have to be older or retired to have the time to sit back and look for things in the wood.
In this area the woodcarvers are quietly going about their work. Few people even know who they are. Maybe galleries holding art shows need to think of woodcarving as art as well as painting, pottery, etc. There are several galleries around here, and they cover many forms of art, but I see little carving included. When I was trying to find other carvers, it was difficult to do.
I now join a few weekly for carving, and one of them turns out amazingly detailed and researched work. He is a master at horses and all conveyances involved with them.
It seems that Boy Scouts is the only way children are introduced to carving, and there is little of that. I am concerned that we may loose many our carvers within the next generation. Of course I live in the mid west and it may be much different in other areas where all the shows are held, etc. I hope so. The feel and smell of the wood and the joy of pulling something fun or beautiful from it needs to be passed on to our young.
I’m a novice, I guess. I don’t carve full time, but I usually spend A few hours on most days at it. I sell a few things, would like to sell more, though.
More on me at my web site,
Spearfish, South Dakota
Dave and Bernie Frigon of Branson MO
I am relatively new to woodcarving but from my perspective woodcarving is alive and well in America. With very little effort I found hundreds of web sites dealing with all aspects of woodcarving. I have joined 2 of many mail lists of very active and helpful woodcarvers. There are scores of books easily available in bookstores and on the web dealing with every aspect or subject of woodcarving. There are dozens of “gatherings”, contests and shows all over the country. I have had no trouble finding several nearby clubs to participate in. Basically I am overwhelmed with the woodcarving subculture. If anyone is interested in woodcarving and can’t find information or support I would have to say that they are not very motivated or diligent in their search.
Dave & Hannah Kratzer
I have been manufacturing carving tools for about five years.
At the concept of this business I did some research and found that the baby boomers of our society are getting older and slowing down. Many have worked with their hands for many years and want to keep on doing something so they carve. Many enjoy the people and the art they create. Other people have retired and have wanted to carve for some time and get
into it. A lot of young people are interested in carving and will carve
for a while then loss interest a leave it only to return to it in time.
I have had very good artist tell me their carvings have improved since
they started using the Preferred Edge Carving Knives.
Eric R Bunn
Woodcarving in America is alive and well and continues to grow in popularity everyday. We have been teaching classes in woodcarving for over 30 years and our attendance is at an all time high. Woodcarving is the type of activity that can be enjoyed by everyone (artist, craftsperson, or hobbyist) with just a little training and lots of practice.
Woodcarving as a hobby, craft or art form is very healthy, but as a business, or as a way for someone to try and make a living, it’s not so healthy. Carver’s are faced with competing with computer technology and very inexpensive imports from countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. I believe woodcarving, as a trade, is much healthier in Europe than it is in the US. I personally would like to see that side of woodcarving in America improve. I get emails from talented carvers all the time that are desperately looking for ways to make a living at their craft, but instead are forced to take other, more traditional, jobs in order to make ends meet. Changing the art form, as it is perceived today, from “a nice hobby” to a valid art form, craft and trade is the only way that Woodcarving in America can be anything more than something to be enjoyed in your spare time.
Eric R Bunn
American Woodcarving School
This is a difficult issue to settle, really. Woodcarving means different things to different people and communities. I think woodcarving has been generally viewed as a “craft” throughout much of America – something done by Boy Scouts and retired folks as hobby. The European culture of apprentice and master carving artists has not been recognized in American, but I think carving wood as an art form is still making strides to the forefront, as more and more galleries in the fine arts community are beginning to recognize its artistic merit.
I’ve found that “craftsman” and “artist” are both distinct and intertwining paths in the carving world. I’d loosely define the craftsman as a “traditionalist” – one whose goal is to achieve technical excellence in the traditional craft of woodcarving; learning and adhering to fairly strict rules and guidelines laid down over the centuries. On the other hand, the artist (or “non-traditionalist”) takes a more casual approach to woodcarving, often bending or even breaking traditional guidelines in finding his or her own style of artistic expression.
Both the traditionalist and non-traditionalist are extremely important to keeping the art of woodcarving alive and strong; I doubt one would exist very long without the other. My own work is certainly that of a non-traditionalist – I’ll use, and sometimes re-invent, any tool or technique to achieve the look and feel I want my work to convey. But if I didn’t expose myself to the methods and insight of carving traditionalists, I’d have very little ability to build on the ideas I want to explore. Similarly, the traditionalist might run out of ideas to technically “perfect” if they weren’t influenced by the ideas of the non-traditionalist.
Artists are picking up carving tools at younger ages, it seems, and so fresh ideas and techniques are being introduced into the carving world. Also, women have found their way into recognition as serious carving artists which serves to further the insights and inspirations that continue to nurture carving as a serious art form.
We still have a long way to go, however. Carving magazines and clubs seem to still be focused mainly on the “craft” or “hobby” of woodcarving, offering lots of ready-made patterns and step-by-step projects to follow, without encouraging much in the way of individual artistic expression. There are glimmers of it here and there, and hopefully as we continue to grow in this field as artists, we’ll be able to incorporate the idea of carving as an art form into such areas.
“Reflections of the Soul”
Carvings by folk artist Teri Embrey
Thomas W. Horton
I haven’t a clue as to the state of woodcarving in the U.S. My amateur impression is that there are more people carving than ever before. This is based on the number of carving catalogues and the great volume of woodcarving tools, both manual, electric and air driven.
Suspect the quality among most wood carvers is better than ever, excluding the artist professionals of yesteryear.
Thomas W. Horton
Glen Mills, PA
Steve S. Schoolar Ph.D.
The state of art of wood carving in the USA is summed up in the sticker that I had made and put on all my wood carving mail. It says: A would be wood carver would be a wood carver if a would be wood carver would carve wood. Most of the carvers want to buy tools and then carve something on the first shot that will win blue ribbons or go on display at the Vatican. It took Michelangelo (he started as a wood carver and there are still some of his wood carvings in existence) from about 10 years old until he was 25 years old before he got the first big spot that did happen to be in the Vatican. Those fifteen years, he was carving and training every day to increase his skill. Most carvers have never heard of carving for practice much less carving ten or twenty of a thing just to get better at some particular skill involved. It takes practice to play the piano and it takes practice to carve well. Not just attending classes and letting the teacher carve most of it, it takes practice, practice, practice daily. The state of the art of wood carving in the USA is in a state of lack of practice. That is my dollar ninety-eight opinion.
Steve S. Schoolar Ph.D. —
Fort Worth, TX
and my dog’s name is Rufus
I learned by trial and error what I like to carve. I did, like most do, use patterns of other carvers. Which is great. But one thing I learned very quickly is I can’t carve like someone else. If I tried to copy someone else’s work I felt they came out ok. But I just could not get them to look like the model and it wasn’t fun to carve for sometime for me. But I couldn’t just stop. I still had to have something to carve. After the class with Jan at the GOW, we carved the logs, using mallet tools. I had never even touched a mallet tool
before that. And at the time I had a bad elbow and it took me forever to do that log but I did!
When I came home I wanted to try one by myself. And so I started another one right away. Since I really hadn’t carved faces it was really hard to get what I now had in my mind I wanted to do. So instead of trying to copy what I had done in Jan’s class I decided that maybe if I could carve what I could see in my own mind and use my own ideas and just carved without a pattern and just go for it and see what happens. Well I was so excited as it all seemed so much
easier to carve! And that’s what I now am able to do with my houses. Carve what I see and it all just comes together! When I was almost done carving the log, the idea of making a house out of it came about. As I was at that time in my new home with an empty yard. It hit me like a brick! I could make houses out of these logs to decorate yards or
homes. What a great addition to homes of those like me, a bird watcher. So after about a year trying to sell these in stores-that is a mistake as the commission put the houses out of reach, I thought.So I did the Goods show and sold a few that I had told about.There are bird houses out there but nothing like what I created. And the best part is they are one of a kind! I worked very hard as I knew in my heart these just had to be something bird lovers would want. Just to get the word out was my problem. And that’s where the Birds &
Blooms came into. When that article came out it really hit me like a train and it’s has been going so well! Shows are great to get exposure but at the moment I had no time to do that if it was out of town. I do work besides carve. So if you have something you feel should really be something others want, don’t give up. Whenever you can get your work exposed to the consumer the better chance of selling. How else would they know it’s out there?
I sent the picture to B&B and it was free to have it in the magazine. Can’t be better than free! My web site had at the time sold a few things. But the exposure from B&B really was the hit of year for me.I have had over 4000 hits since that came out! Unreal.
I know this was longer than I planned but trying to I guess say believe in your product. If you wouldn’t buy it why should anyone else? Exposure your product how ever you can. Emails are free.
Believe in what you do. Develop your own ideas. And ask questions to other carvers. Don’t just copy but maybe they have a technique that you could use down the road in your own designs.
I wouldn’t be where I am today (not rich but having a great time with what I do) if I hadn’t asked others questions and just took a chance in what I believe in when it came to my houses.
Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Cathy @The Carvers Corner.com
In a nutshell, IMHO, all these magazines and books, which end up being nothing more than pattern books, are creating a mass of carvers who are totally dependent on other people’s patterns.
If these people were really interested in teaching people how to carve, they would teach technique, and would teach people how to carve their own ideas. Instead, all they are doing is selling their own books
They have made people believe that they can’t do it on their own. I am working on a “right-brain” drawing class…for people who say they can’t draw….but they can. If you can see, you can draw…
if you can draw you can put your own ideas into carvings and everyone can draw. Some of us naturally know how to “see”…..others of us…including me…have to learn how to see.
South China, Maine
Bill T. Smith
What l found about woodcarving is at the present time sales have drop and shows have gotten slower here in Florida. There could be 2 reasons one the economy and the weather as we had a few hurricanes last year. I like to carve dolphins and sea life. They are a big seller here in Florida.
Bill T. Smith
Woodcarving has really come to pass in the last 20 years. It was an active hobby for people years ago from the Ozarks and farmers from Tennessee.
Now there are carving shows and competitions all over the United States representing Americana from eagles to flags and figurines of Betsy Ross. It is very rewarding to the individual taking a block of wood which was once alive and bringing it back to a creative work of art.
Staten Island, New York
In terms of our perspective on the state of carving in America, we’ve always found our carving category to be an integral and healthy part of our overall woodworking business. Growth in our carving category has been proportional to our overall business growth indicating that interest in the hobby has not waned over the years. Two aspects, as we see it, hamper significant growth in this category – one, carving is not an intuitive art form for most. Carving well requires patience, good technique and some creativity (not to mention a lot of practice), which naturally has the effect of limiting appeal as an easy hobby. Two, carving tools are generally expensive which deters trial. Despite all this, demand for carving supplies remains strong especially in the areas of whittling, relief-carving and carving in the round. In recent years however, we’ve seen greater interest in chip-carving, as newer tools and techniques have evolved to make the art less cumbersome to employ.
As to whether more or less people make a living from carving or carving related endeavors, I suspect the answer is neither more nor less. Most woodworkers are not seeking anything other than personal satisfaction from their hobby – carving is no exception.
We hope your research is fruitful. Please let me know when your report is complete.
Director of Product Development
Lee Valley Tools Ltd.
I don’t know what the activity is in and around NYC, but around here is very, very sparse. I live in the South East corner of NH & there’s no local activity and no (apparent) interest in carving or sales. The closest club is in Massachusetts (about 1-1/2 hour drive) and only meets every other month, and not in the summer. They have an annual “Wood Fair” in October, but that’s about it. The Mystic Carvers, in Connecticut, is fairly active but again it’s a long drive. And that’s it for around here. I think if there was more carvers they’d be more activity. The interest just isn’t there. They have quite a few Local/County fairs & I’ve been to most of them (I don’t sell at them). There’s not much woodcarved items & what little there was, wasn’t selling much. I’ve networked with some of the carvers and, it seems, not to many ‘customers’ want to pay the carvers a decent price for their work… “You want how much for that??” I make some sales, by word-of-mouth, and if I don’t get the asking price, I don’t sell it.
Dick Carter firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Heart of the Manadnock Area of NH
There is not enough emphasis o n the art of woodcarving in these modern times. People- adults and children-learn Inn several different ways. Plenty of people aren’t just visual (painting) they are also hands on learners and creators. Sculptures are just as important.
Staten Island, NY
My range of understanding in the rest of the USA. is limited at best. What I do know is what has happened here in Mountain View Arkansas. In the 60s I sold mostly 10$ dogs & cats, small things. In the 70s things got better, I sold work up to 100$. In the 80s & 90s I sold work in the 1000s$. Now I can hardly give it away. My work is as good as ever it was, but the people have other things on there minds to by. A common thing to here from a customer is, “well I can get that at Wal-mart for 3$”. I may have spent two or more days on the carving, but the people now-a-days do not see the value in “hand-made”. I can no longer support myself as a carver alone. Fortunately I now have other work. I am a Craft Interpreter at the www.ozarkfolkcenter.com Here I spend two days talking on Carving & two days talking on old time casting, also an art that no longer earns much money. I will continue to Carve, it is all I know. However I no longer fool my self about the sales getting better. I do not think they will here in the Ozarks.
Woodcarving as an art and as a hobby is very rewarding. Unfortunately, young people today are not exposed to this or any other crafts that use the hands and imagination.
As for your question on the state of woodcarving in America (Australia)
I find that a lot of the people in our group are getting into power carving E.g. dremmel, arbotech, power chisels, etc
they find that it takes to long to do by hand with chisels and that the quick removal of waste by power carving is easy.
some of the carvings produced are spectacular
and the finished item is still a carving of sorts (so I am told)
I call them more of a sculpture
– and the noise of the tools (swarm of bees)
carving should be quiet
so you can feel the vibration of the carving itself
not the vibration of the tool
all my carvings are done with chisels and my old #71 grannys tooth plane for depth and my pyrotool for my borders
i enjoy the feel of the chisel and the way it slices through the wood leaving a glisten on the surface of the carving
not a lot of old style carving is done
more sculptures, dragons, caricatures rather than architectural
not big on santas in aussie. cheers
John aka Mr Chips
for now i think that woodcarving has met maybe a plateau caused maybe by the economics of the present time…..when the dollar doesn’t go as far the public tends to just look and not buy…..this happened a few years ago with paintings…..just have to deal with the wind not being in our sails (sales) and hope for a breeze to get us out of these still waters…..BUT keep on carving (aka Jan) and chippin away
John aka Mr Chips
I think wood carving in America is doing well. There are more woodcarvers now then there ever were. And you hear and see more then you did years ago. Though there are fewer young people getting into it. The classes have gotten better and better. And carving and woodburning have found a home together. And have for years. Bird carvers have used woodburning to enhance their carvings and I also use both, in my relief carving/woodburned pictures. i know you see more wood carving in certain areas of the states now where years ago, you never saw one. even though the people were there. and an enterprising person with the stamina to do so. can make a living with his carving. or a part -time living. or just a fun hobby. the biggest trouble with wood carving is it is additive. once you start, you can not stop. thanks all my friends for helping me over the years with my carving. and thanks to Desiree Hajny for my interest in carving. as it was an article in a wood magazine that I read about her carving and how she got started that got me interested in doing some of my own. I’m still learning, but thanks to all my carving friends I am now not ashamed to show them to people. thanks.
George W. Reinfried
I have only been in carving for about 5 years. I have been very lucky to meet such great people, who gave Ann and I so much help with the NEWR.
About 5 years ago Jack & Winnie Miller invited Ann and I to go along with them to Evart round up. From there Ann and I were hooked on wood carving and the concept of a round up. The round up gives a lot of carvers a chance to sit down, with some of the great carvers of the day and learn from them, and take back to their club some of the instructors teaching..
The state of wood carving is going up. In our travels which, we have found that most organizations are making a special effort to hold beginner classes several times a year. These classes are not only for the young that want to learn, they are for all ages. The beginners get a great start in wood carving in one of these classes. I think it is great to see the ladies sit down and take a class. They seem to take to it naturally, give them a sharp knife and a good piece of bass wood and they are off and running. One lady at the NEWR, took a beginner lesson Monday morning and till Wednesday night she had 3 completed projects.
Carving is on its way up. In Lancaster I can carve 7 days a week at 7 different places and learn from all the great people that we know as carvers.
George W. Reinfried
Lancaster, Pa. 17603
I’ve always felt that woodcarvers come in two varieties, the type that needs to be encouraged, instructed, given detailed drawings and fancy go-bys and the type that creates from the heart with the help of the wood.
It would seem that the growth in woodcarving has come from the first group.
It is terrific to see the number of classes, seminars, gatherings, carve-ins, etc. that is available to the average carver today. How to Carving Books abound. It is common to visit shows and find carvings that we have seen in one of the magazines, or see several
carvings done by different carvers of the same carving done in a class or seminar. I can pick out carvings, some done beautifully and some not quite so fine, and know on sight who the instructor was or what book or
class it came from. I think this is where we are as the majority of woodcarvers. I find this common or at best uninteresting.
The minority, on the other hand, speak from a core that is as an artist and let their creative center flow out in some form of woodcarving.
We all strive to do wonderful and uplifting pieces but most of us settle for technically acceptable but lackluster carvings. I own scores of books and have taken many classes. This has given me the foundation to dream about original works, wonderful pieces and acceptance within the woodcarving community. I still covet the new books, I still glean out any new technique but I have begun to look inward for things that challenge and excite me. I have many that have fallen short of my expectations but a few have given me the thrill of a job well done. Satisfaction is priceless and much more meaningful when you know in your heart it’s really “yours”.
I hope that the future of woodcarving is in the expanding of ones imagination. To color outside the lines. To push the envelope. I love it when I see a carving and stop to study the lines and technique and
wonder “Gosh, How’d he (she) Do That?” I would hope that the teachers would try teaching a class where the subject is “Anything You Want” . Everyone doing their own thing and being guided when they get to a snag or need a nudge. As it is, we take a class, end up with a hastily done reproduction of someone else’s idea and then have the nerve to enter it in a show as our own. It is true that the chips were made by that carver and
they might even have shed a little blood but the carving is theirs only by weak association.
I’m speaking about the majority of carvers, those who fuel any growth that might be happening to our craft. This woodcarving community has grown into a support system that just keeps growing and giving.
The true artists do not need to be spoken about, they are on their way under their own power and I’m not even sure that they are aware of the struggle we are going through as we try to emulate their fine works.
Their art is from within.
For the rest of us…Push creativity….think about a class where each carver is given a piece of wood and a single word…can you think of all of the different results that might occur.
An imperfect original as opposed to a technically correct clone of someone else’s imagination. That is where we should be going! I’d get on that train.
Larry (BIG DOG) Yudis
FROM A SUPPLIER’S POINT OF VIEW:
It sure is incredible how woodcarving has grown in the last 25 years. We have been in this line of work since March of 1981. Woodcarving was just a very small part of our woodworking supply store. Over the years, woodcarving has worked its’ way to the forefront so much that we
discontinued everything else pertaining to woodworking, and made woodcarving supplies our sole focus of business.
Every year that we have been in business has been a growth year for us. Every year we have added more and more names to our customer base. The majority of those customers are retired or soon to be retired. Fortunately, as of late, there seems to be a surge of non-retirees getting
involved with woodcarving. At many of the shows we do or seminars we supply, we have an opportunity to talk with a lot of people. Apparently woodcarving is taking the place of a good therapist for many people! People are using the enjoyment of carving to wind down from the hectic
pace of their jobs.
Besides a continuing growth in the number of people taking up woodcarving, there has been a tremendous growth in the supply end of the business. What started out as a small choice of tools has grown to dozens of different
choices for the beginner or seasoned carver to chose from. As woodcarving has grown, so has the ingenuity of carvers. There are a great number of products on the market today that have come about because of some carver wanting to make life easier for him/herself.
Books, books and more books! This is one area of the woodcarving supply business that is constantly growing. There is a book on just about any topic you can think of. And if there isn’t, it’s probably in the works. A beginner carver has a vast amount of resources available to get them going.
In addition to books, patterns and study aids, there are seminars being taught all over the country. From a carver offering to show some techniques to his/her local club to nationally known seminars that draw carvers from across the country, there are countless numbers of opportunities for a beginner or a seasoned carver.
“The state of woodcarving today” … very much alive and constantly
Larry (BIG DOG) Yudis
The Woodcraft Shop
Carol and Larry Yudis, Show Chairs
International Woodcarvers Congress
Affiliated Wood Carvers, Ltd.
PO Box 104
Bettendorf, IA 52722
Young John (Hane)
Carving instructor Floyd Rhadigan and Young John
My opinion is that carving in America is dying because there are not enough young people interested in learning how to carve. I have tried to get some of my friends interested in carving but all they want to do is play with their video games.
Young John Hane, age 13
Kris and his Dad getting ready for a show
My name is Kris Hotchkin & I have a small woodcarving studio here in Burden, Ks. I have been carving for fifteen years & in that time I have met a lot of woodcarvers here in southeast Kansas. I have found that there is a lot of interest in woodcarving & as a full time woodcarver I have people stop in my studio daily & show interest in starting classes with me. We opened our studio full time a year ago & at that time I started teaching classes in basic woodcarving. We have expanded are business now to where we are selling tools, wood & rough outs. I have been surprised that things have grown in interest so quickly, seeing that Burden is only a town of 550 people. We had 24 students sign up for the first class & out of the 24 we still have about 8 that are still attending weekly. I know that when I started carving, people said that woodcarving was a dying art, but I believe that there has been a whole new generation of people that has become interested. I know that over the years I have seen a lot of new carvers come along & there are so many wonderful artists out there waiting to be found. I like the fact that there are so many people out there trying to promote woodcarving & I think it is great that we have such wonderful tools as the internet so more of us can share the knowledge that so many have spent years learning.
Hotchkin Woodcarving Studio,
I find carving to be expanding in the United States. One needs to subscribe to publications and join a carving club in order to expand your abilities. Visiting carving shows and inquiring of vendors about their experiences and getting tips about tools, woods and selling is important. I believe that woodcarving should be promoted and advertised to the public in local papers because there are people out there who are interested but have never had contact with others who share the same interests.
Staten island, NY
“Ol’ Don” Burgdorf
The state of woodcarving today? If my travel/teaching schedule and the responses to my published articles is any kind of an indicator, woodcarving is alive and doing quite well, thank you. Folk in the wood carving community are some of the finest folk I’ve ever met anywhere and their
enthusiasm is infectious. In a recent workshop I had a mother and her 11 year old daughter as students. The interest in learning evident in the daughter tells me woodcarving will be around for a long time. I strongly
believe that being made in the image of God includes the desire to create, and woodcarving for me is one of the most relaxing (albeit challenging at times) ways to release this need. There are so many aspects to this art form no one would have any difficulty finding a subject they could be
comfortable with. While it is true, as Maura has pointed out in her excellent discourse on the subject, there is no longer a strong mass marketability aspect to woodcarving, there are many serious collectors willing to invest in quality carvings created by those who wish to take their carving skills to the limit. For the majority, those who carve wood
for their own pleasure and not as a commercial endeavor, they will find not only an enjoyable “hobby” but there will be no end to the call for their creations from appreciative family and friends. And, who knows, one day there may be another 11 year old suddenly asking Mom or Dad (orGrandpa or Grandma) to teach them how to carve something in wood.
“Ol’ Don” Burgdorf
I HAVE SEEN MANY CHANGES IN THE WORLD OF CARVING IN THE PAST 35 YEARS. STARTING WITH A HANDFUL OF CARVERS WITH VERY LIMITED TOOLS, ZERO REFERENCE BOOKS. WHAT REALLY GOT ME HOOKED, WAS A SMALL BOOK ON CARICATURE CARVING, BY H.S. “Andy” ANDERSON, HOW TO CARVE CHARACTERS IN WOOD. THIS BOOK CAME FROM HEAVEN JUST FOR ME. I CARVED EVERY ITEM IN THE BOOK, MY ONLY TOOL WAS A HOMEMADE CARVING KNIFE. IN 1975 HAROLD ENLOW, CAME OUT WITH (CARVING IN THE OZARK STYLE), I KNEW THIS WAS WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY LIFE. TO CARVE AND PROMOTE CARVING TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS I COULD. NOW CARVING IS A HUGE PASTIME, HOBBY, BUSINESS, TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. I WOULD HAVE NEVER DREAMED IT WOULD GROW THE WAY IT HAS. THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF CARVING CLUBS, SEMINARS, CARVING SHOWS, ALL ACROSS THE NATION. I TRAVEL ALL OVER THE STATES TEACHING, I HAVE MY OWN WEB SITE, I PUT ON A LARGE WEEK LONG SEMINAR IN MICHIGAN EACH JUNE. THE OUTLOOK FOR CARVING IS VERY PROMISING, THE BEST ADVICE I COULD GIVE, IS , IF YOU WANT TO GET GOOD AT CARVING , YOU HAVE TO GET INVOLVED, CARVE AT LEAST 1/2 HOUR A DAY, AND MOST IMPORTANT , GET SOME YOUNG PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT IT.
FOR INFO ABOUT THE CREATIVE WOODCARVING SEMINAR.
CONTACT: FLOYD RHADIGAN
287 RIVERVIEW DR.
SALINE, MI. 48176
I live in a craft town. A good percentage of the people here make a living at one craft or another. There are 20 -30 full time woodcarvers; out of these I believe 2 or3 are true artists. I know of 5 walking stick carvers selling 200-300 pieces a year. Each of these are master craftsmen; if they weren’t they would not be in business here long. The dollar-sign-in-the-eye craftsmen go by the way side quickly here. In the last 10 years I have witnessed 20 chainsaw carvers come and go in one season. They carve what the Locals call “porch uglys” (bears and eagles) that are decent to extremely rough. Two or three have been doing this for years because they found their niche.
Carving is much like practicing the scales on a piano over and over and over until you no longer think about it. It comes naturally. By letting emotion come into play it can become art. Some woodcarving is basically taxidermy; not to take anything away from reptile, bird or animal carvers, these to me are master craftsmen and as with any work, it take years of practice along with much trial and error to become a master.
I think in most westernized nations the state of wood carving is on the increase. By westernized I don’t include Europe where family carvers go back decades and generations and is by and large far superior to western carving. Most of the superior carvers in the US also appear to have had their start some place other than a western nation.
With the rapid increase in “neander” woodworking it’s only natural that a percentage of those snapping up woodworking hand tools will try their luck at carving.
I think it will go the same way woodturning did when I first got into that. When I began to get serious about wood working in the late 70s I was given a wood lathe by my dad. At that time and into the early 80s there wasn’t much going on in the craft. But since then it’s exploded! Turning is no longer a utilitarian craft, the work done now is way beyond what anyone back then could have ever imagined.
Also with furniture making I see a substantial increase in the skill of “hobbyist” makers. I see people with little if any woodworking back ground making some incredibly complicated pieces in much the same way they were built centuries ago.
So it’s only natural that carving will follow in these foot steps. As more get into carving the desire for originality and recognition will cause it to bloom.
And finally, last but not least (I think this one says it all).
Need more young carvers.