This is going
be the toughest, most painful review I've ever written.
Want to know why?
No?? Too bad, I'm going to tell you anyway. It's because,
as I'm writting this, the green-eyed-monster has me by the throat
with both claws. Faithful readers, all three of you, have
read this before, but in the first Santa carving contest sponsered
by Woodcraft and Woodcarving Illustrated I was in the finals with
Shawn Cipa (and 40-some others). Shawn won and I (and 40-some
others) lost... Since then Shawn gets to write woodcarving books...
I get to review woodcarving books. Jealously is unavoidable
here, but thankfully, in this case, not fatal. Bottom line?...
Shawn, flat out, had the better piece. I'll get over it...
I'll get better... I'll be back.
Another reason this one is tough to write is
that I've been expecting this book since the summer of '95. At
that time, I was participating in a really fine woodcarving show
in Morrisville, VT put on by the Green Mountain Woodcarvers.
It was very nerve wracking, not just because it was only my second
show, but because my best piece was carved from a pattern I had
taken some "liberties" with. A pattern from a book whose
author was the show's guest carver and was only a few tables down
from me. Well, the case of nerves was unnecessary
since he actually seemed to enjoy the modifications and proceeded
to pick out every one and critique it... favorably in fact.
As we talked about the book I had taken the pattern from, he commented
on how he was committed to so many books a year and would like
to dedicate one exclusively to mythical creatures. It's
been a ten year wait, but someone else finally delivered.
The final reason... what? Yeah, yeah,
I'll get to the review... eventually. The final reason this
is a tough review is that Mr Cipa's first two books were easy
to pass over. Nothing bad about them, but their subject
matter didn't grab me. This one I NEEDED to have.
Not only is it's subject material near and dear to me, but
it's a fine book too. So, even though everything is a little
hazy and green, here goes the book review.
The photography is top notch, and it's done
by... opening to the credits page... Shawn Cipa and Greg Heisey?
Swell, not only does he write carving books, but he can do his
own photography. Dammit, there's that green fog again.
I know I harp on photography a bit much, but there's no way around
it. With instructional books, especially those with step-by-step
sections, the pictures will make or break it.
Without exception, all of the patterns are great. Usually in any book with a good number of patterns, there are one or two that can be labeled don't-need-to-carve-that-one. I honestly think these are all "keepers". They all have wonderfully graceful lines, good balance and yet they're not overly complicated. All are within reach of intermediate and beginnermediate wood carvers.
In many of Shawn's human figures, the hands are carved seperate and inserted/glued into the figure. This by design and it's a wonderful feature. Hands are always a challenge, and I've used this trick on several Santas and one angel that I carved releasing a dove. Not only does it allow you to run the grain in a direction that will make the hands stronger, but you can carve three, or four, or five of them until you get a pair that look right. In my case, "look right" means there's one right hand, one left hand, and they look like they belong to the same figure. On a shelf in my shop there's a small pile of "rejects" in various poses. It probably would seem disturbing to some folks, but I'm saving them for a caricature project. The image hasn't actually come to me yet, but it will.
A brief tour:
Each of these have an up front discussion, pattern, and picture(s)
OK, I'm going to give
this one a two stage rating. If you're only mildly interested
in mythical creatures, this book is well done but probably only
a 3 thumber for you, and only because the subject matter is most
of the book. However, if you're just plain nuts about creatures
and figures of myth and lore (Oooh! Oooh!... Me! Me!), or
you are an instructor who needs a reference library for students
whose interests will not necessarily run in the same direction
as yours, this is a "must have" four thumber of a book.
So fellow wizards and enchantresses of wood,
keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and continue practicing
those sylvan spells.
Keep on Carvin'
Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, edits Notes From The Net, and is a regular contributor of other articles to WOM.
You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.