Chapter 6 part 2
The State of Woodcarving in America today part 3
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
Available now! Forever Flowers
Learn to carve wood flowers that last forever!
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
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.
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
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 corving (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.
still learning, but thanks to all my carving friends I am now not ashamed to show them to people.
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
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 (or Grandpa 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.