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Wood Spirits and Green Men
By Lora S. Irish with Chris Pye and Shawn Cipa
Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


This has to be getting a little boring and repetitive for you readers out there, but here's a book review of yet another really good woodcarving book for you.  It might be a little less repetitive though... for a change, this one isn't by Ian Norbury.  In fact, this book has three authors that haven't been reviewed here yet.  I knew it was going to be a have-to-have book when I laid eyes on it at Dayton's Artistry in Wood show last October.  What a tease when the Fox/Chapel folks said it wasn't yet released. The chief author here is Lora S. Irish who together with her HTML wizard husband, Mike, manage one fantastic web site called Classic Carving Patterns.  We don't want to get off track here, but the web-site is a wealth of information, tutorials, woodcarving links... oh yeah, and patterns.  So just sit tight, finish the review, and then go visit, OK?  Contributing  to this book are Chris Pye and Shawn Cipa.  Chris Pye has written my #1 and #2 favorite woodcarving books and I just realized, with horror, that I haven't reviewed either of them here.  Well, with Matt's permission, we'll remedy that in the next issue of WOM.  Shawn Cipa... hmmm... haven't reviewed any of his books either, but that's probably just because I'm jealous.  Shawn and I were both finalists in the first Santa Carving Contest sponsored by Woodcraft and Fox/Chapel Publishing.  He won the final in Lancaster and I didn't, so anything I say against... ummmm, anything I say about him should be take with a large grain of salt (written with a large grin).  Anyway, on to the book.

Like most of the great books reviewed here, this book begins with a healthy dose of background history, a history that goes back to years B.C.  No gentle reader, not BC as in Before Computers.  We're talking BC as in Before Christ... WAY back.  Try to keep up.  Next the book has two how-to sections, one by Chris Pye and one by Shawn Cipa.  Their projects are at opposite ends of the spectrum with Chris's project being a more traditional foliated green man where Shawn's is a more modern, caricature type wood spirit.  There is another difference between the two.  Chris Pye's project is more suited to intermediate and advanced carvers.  The reasons for this are that there are fewer steps, they address the high points only and the required tool list is more extensive.  This is not a fault, just a caution.  Shawn's section is broken down into finer steps, requires fewer tools and is very much  suited for first time and intermediate wood spirit carvers.  After these two chapters we have a great photo gallery of historic examples.  The photographer is Clive Hicks and his pictures will get your creative juices going, guaranteed.  The Final chapter is a plethora of patterns broken down into the same classes sited by Lora in Chapter 1.  Here most line drawings are paired with shaded drawings which help give the carver a better sense for the depth and shape of the project's elements.  This is feature very much the norm for Lora S. Irish patterns and one of their great pluses to her illustrations. Another that's a unique and likeable characteristic about her woodspirit patterns is that several of them have a kick-your-butt attitude... very appropriate for a protector of the forest. 

A brief tour with highlights:

About the Author & Contributors

Introduction by the author

Chapter 1: Green Man to Wood Spirit-Evolution of an Image

Chapter 2: Carving the Green man

Chapter 3: Carving a Wood Spirit Walking Stick

Chapter 4: Gallery

Chapter 5: Patterns




Before we give this book a rating I need to do my usual nit picking.  Yes, even Ian Norbury gets this treatment from me, so fair is fair.  First, even though Lora gives a nod to the existence of animal and female wood spirits (greenimals? green persons?) she only includes a green cat pattern on page 58.  Though, with a little softening of the eyes and smoothing of the nose the "sacred oak" on page 57 could easily be female.  Next, Shawn Cipa's woodspirit eyes have one pupil that's high and one that is low.  Ok, ok... it is a caricature, and exageration is acceptable, and with the slant of the eyes it's the only way to get him to look to the side, but it just doesn't work for me.  If you have a real issue with this nit pick just read my first paragraph.  Finally, Chris Pye... there were no problems there.  If there were I would be blind to them anyway.  Besides, if there were nits to pick, they wouldn't be big enough to keep you from buying the book, but then that's true for ALL of my nit-picks here.

OK Gang, nit picking aside, this book is another four thumber, with a small qualifier.  It is very focused woodcarving book and, if you have no interest in carving green men or wood spirits this isn't a woodcarving book for you.  Considering the title that is probably not a mystery, but the four thumb rating is based solely on it's standing with other books in it's genre.

So keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and next issue I write about something REALLY different... a woodcarving book I didn't care for.  Who's it by?  I ain't tellin' until next issue.  Totally seperate from that book, we should also be reviewing a carving book in a woodcarving category I have little experience in and don't do very well.  Hey! That's just like a real live professional critic, huh? 

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Fox Chapel Books http://www.foxchapelpublishing.com/productdetails.cfm?sku=2615

Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a frequent contributor to WOM.

You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.