Author Archive for Perry Reynolds

Carving Out Your Opportunities

Carving Out Your Opportunities

By Per­ry A Reynolds

As we con­tin­ue our pas­sion for wood carv­ing many of us may desire to explore addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties in wood carv­ing relat­ed activ­i­ties. Many, if not most, even­tu­al­ly choose to begin sell­ing their work. This choice can be for many rea­sons. From sim­ply seek­ing addi­tion­al income to sup­port our carv­ing habit, to reduc­ing our abun­dance of carv­ings or may be to even­tu­al­ly seek wood­carv­ing as a full time occu­pa­tion. Even if a per­son is not an accom­plished wood carv­er there are still plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties that exist for the artis­tic, cre­ative or ener­getic indi­vid­ual that wants to par­tic­i­pate in carv­ing as an vehi­cle for addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty.
Lets take a look at var­i­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties that a carv­er or artist may choose to explore. Bro­ken down into clear­ly defined aspects and cat­e­gories of carv­ing, the fol­low­ing ideas are sim­ply basic choic­es.

All wood carv­ings can be divid­ed into two basic aspects: Abstract and Real­ism. Many carv­ings also bridge these two cat­e­gories. One good exam­ple is car­i­ca­ture carv­ings. Though we can eas­i­ly rec­og­nize them as a human, ani­mal or oth­er fig­ures they are abstract inter­pre­ta­tions of those enti­ties.

Types of Carv­ings

A brief descrip­tion of the types of most com­mon­ly found wood carv­ings include:

Dec­o­ra­tive Carv­ing

This can come in many forms but for the sake of time and space this can be best defined as carv­ings meant to be placed on a shelf, dis­played on a pedestal or hung on a wall, tree, door or oth­er place of dis­play for visu­al enjoy­ment. The vast major­i­ty of wood­carv­ings fall into this cat­e­go­ry.

Func­tion­al Carv­ing

Things meant to be used in dai­ly life. Spoons, Bowls, Jew­el­ry, Hunt­ing Decoys, Dis­play Shelves, Fur­nish­ings and oth­er carv­ings that are pro­vide not only beau­ty but also func­tion.

Archi­tec­tur­al Carv­ing

This aspect incor­po­rates both dec­o­ra­tive and func­tion­al. Exam­ples include Fixed Fur­nish­ings, Door and Win­dow Mold­ings, Doors, Man­tles, Cab­i­netry, Stair­case Com­po­nents, Sig­nage or any oth­er carv­ing that pro­vides dec­o­ra­tive func­tion and except for move­able sig­nage is usu­al­ly a fixed enti­ty that becomes an inte­gral com­po­nent of a home or a com­mer­cial build­ing.

As a carv­er, artist, crafter or any oth­er occu­pa­tion in which a per­son choos­es to par­tic­i­pate for prof­it it is imper­a­tive to struc­ture your prod­ucts or ser­vices so that they will make mon­ey. Here is a basic for­mu­la if you are seek­ing to mar­ket your work as well as sur­vive in the carv­ing relat­ed busi­ness (or any busi­ness).  Mate­r­i­al + Labor + Over­head = Cost.  Cost + Markup = Sales Price. If you under­cut your labor you walk back­wards. Over­head encom­pass­es the indi­rect costs such as sup­plies, trans­port­ing the prod­ucts, pack­ag­ing, adver­tis­ing, busi­ness cards, entry fees, dis­plays, etc… It is also imper­a­tive to add a prof­it (of what­ev­er per­cent­age you choose). Dis­re­gard­ing any of these fac­tors is a recipe for fail­ure. If you are inter­est­ing in mar­ket­ing your work as a prof­itable hob­by and you adhere to those sim­ple for­mu­las then as your cus­tomer base grows you will be afford­ed far more oppor­tu­ni­ties!

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Developing Your Creative Expression

Wood­carv­ing is sim­ply the reflec­tion of each indi­vid­ual carver’s expres­sion and artis­tic inter­pre­ta­tion of a giv­en sub­ject. This can come in many forms, rang­ing from abstract to real­ism. In todays carv­ing envi­ron­ment there are many teach­ing aids avail­able which enable the wood carv­er to devel­op the var­i­ous skills nec­es­sary to progress their carv­ing abil­i­ties.  The vast major­i­ty of these carvers begin with sim­ple projects where using the knife as the pri­ma­ry tool, which teach­es them the fun­da­men­tals such as under­stand­ing grain direc­tion, the char­ac­ter­is­tics of var­i­ous species of wood, and the uses and prac­tice of var­i­ous knife cuts.

Unlike when I began carv­ing, teach­ing aids are wide­ly avail­able. Today the new carv­er may elect to buy cut outs and rough outs as well as books and instruc­tion­al DVD’s to assist them in devel­op­ing their carv­ing tech­nique. They may spend count­less hours on video web­sites or choose to search for pic­tures of oth­er carvers’ work to give them ideas for their next project. In this con­text they soon may real­ize that what they carve are sim­ply copies of what some­one else has already done. There is noth­ing orig­i­nal about their carv­ing. It is sim­ply a dupli­ca­tion of some­one else’s cre­ativ­i­ty.

One form of wood carv­ing that I great­ly admire, though I have nev­er carved one, is car­i­ca­tures. Why? Because the car­i­ca­ture carv­er can cre­ate end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties, whether human or ani­mal. The car­i­ca­ture carv­er is also bridg­ing abstract and real­ism in a very unique way. If you ask any seri­ous car­i­ca­ture carv­er what is their secret I sus­pect they will tell you: obser­va­tion. They are con­stant­ly look­ing at facial expres­sions, body types, cloth­ing types and a myr­i­ad of oth­er fea­tures that enable them to trans­form an ordi­nary block of wood into an orig­i­nal carv­ing.

This process of obser­va­tion is rel­e­vant to all forms of wood­carv­ing …

This process of obser­va­tion is rel­e­vant to all forms of wood­carv­ing, whether two dimen­sion­al or three dimen­sion­al.

A good exam­ple of seek­ing orig­i­nal­i­ty is where recent­ly I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a spoon carv­ing con­test, not as a com­peti­tor, but as a sup­port­er. Like many of the entrants I searched the inter­net look­ing at count­less spoons.  While the vast major­i­ty of those who entered this con­test were look­ing for ideas I took a dif­fer­ent approach. What I was look­ing for was to pro­duce an “orig­i­nal work” and was look­ing for some­thing that had “not” been done. This is the same approach I, as well as count­less oth­ers use for all carv­ings.  If it is a bird, for instance, I devel­op an idea, then a draw­ing and final­ly a pat­tern to pos­ture the bird in a unique way or pro­vide an orig­i­nal habi­tat to make the carv­ing an orig­i­nal work of art. If it is a relief carv­ing I nev­er look at pic­tures. I devel­op a scene in my mind and make lit­tle sketch­es and notes and then pro­duce a draw­ing to serve as my pat­tern or guide­line.

One asset that is invalu­able to a wood­carv­er is the abil­i­ty to make basic sketch­es. This assists them in fine tun­ing what the actu­al carv­ing will become.  If you desire to carve a face then learn to draw eyes, noses, lips, ears, wrin­kles and vari­a­tions of each these facial fea­tures.  If you choose to carve birds then study birds and learn the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the species and then learn to draw the var­i­ous aspects such as heads, beaks, wings, tails, feath­ers, and so forth.  The same rings true for any giv­en sub­ject. This goes back to the fun­da­men­tal of Obser­va­tion.

As the wood­carv­er evolves his or her work begins to express spe­cif­ic traits and char­ac­ter­is­tics that dis­tin­guish their carv­ings from those of oth­ers. Of course this only occurs after many hours, months and years of prac­tice but that is the true beau­ty of wood­carv­ing. There are no mas­ters! There are only carvers con­tin­u­ing a life-long edu­ca­tion­al process; a process plagued with count­less mis­takes, a boun­ti­ful sup­ply of waste wood and a striv­ing desire to become just a lit­tle bet­ter with each com­plet­ed carv­ing!

Per­ry A. Reynolds 2014


PerryReynoldsPer­ry Reynolds is a long-time carv­er from Mill Spring, NC.   You may vis­it his Carv­ing and Can­vas web site HERE    He also found­ing mod­er­a­tor of the Wood­carv­ing 101 — The Joy of Wood­carv­ing Face­book group HERE