Woodcarver Ezine
Back Issues
Carvers' Companion Gateway



Carving Classic Female Figures in Wood

By Ian Norbury

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


This is going to be a painful review on a couple levels.  First this carving book, after months of anticipation, turned out to be an extreme disappointment.  Second the author is one of my favorites and this latest is going to get the lowest rating of any book I've reviewed here. A few issues back, you might recall, we reviewed Ians Carving Classic Females Faces in Wood.  I pointed out that he had covered this subject in his previous book, Fundamentals of Figure Carving, but Faces was a wonderful expansion on the the former work.  Carving Classic Females Figures in Wood is just the opposite and has far less than what is covered in Fundamentals.  First of all the book is misleading title.  Of the two projects presented the figures have no arms below mid biceps, they are missing legs from just above the knee, and have no heads.  The  title should instead be Carving Classic Females Torsos in Wood .  The first project being a torso would be a fine first figure project and applauded, but then the second project should have been a complete figure with discussions. Also unlike the earlier book on carving female faces which had four different models for four different projects with a wonderful mix of races and ages, this book only has one model and two poses/projects.  Not to belabor a previous point, but since only the torsos are carved, the difference between the two poses is not nearly as dramatic.  Finally, and this was a criticism of the earlier book as well, there is no discussion of clay models.  The more I carve and meet successful carvers, the more I'm convinced that clay modeling is one of the best tools for woodcarvers who are doing there own original patterns and projects and/or stretching their abilities.

This book was not totally devoid of good points.  Although he begs off of the benefits of anatomical research into the female figure, Ian does supply a good suggestion for a reference book. Several anatomical diagram are placed in the first project to illustrate certain carving steps.  I would have appreciated many more of these in the second project.  The discussions of reference photos and making patterns from them is very complete.  There are plenty of reference photos of the model for both projects.  Enough to do a full carving (with arms, legs, and heads) of either if you choose.  The photography throughout the book  is very good, especially during the how-to sequences, and is all in color.   The color option is especially appreciated when he uses limewood for the first project and walnut for the second.  The beauty and differences of both woods are brought out much more clearly in color.

A brief tour of the contents:

About the Author
Introduction by the author

Chapter 1: Taking Photographs and Making Patterns

Chapter 2: Carving a Limewood Torso

Chapter 3: Carving a Walnut Torso

My gut feeling was to rate this book two and a half thumbs, but after re-reading what has been said in this review so far, I realize most of my complaints have been a result of comparing this to earlier books of Ian Norbury, especially Fundamentals of Figure Carving.  If this were the only book I had ever seen of Ian's I would say that it was a fairly good woodcarving book.  Not great, but still useful.  So I will give it a three thumb rating.  However, if you can lay hands on a copy of  Ian Norbury's Fundamentals book (ISBN 0-941936-26-0) buy it instead.  Even with black and white photography it gets four and a half thumbs out of five.

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Carving Classic Female Figures can be found online at Fox Chapel Books http://www.foxchapelpublishing.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=1215

Fundamentals of Woodcarving can be found online at Martin J Donnely Antique Tools and Books http://www.mjdtools.com/books/125851.htm or cambium books at http://www.cambiumbooks.com/books/carving/0-941936-26-0/

Mike's mugMike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.

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