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Why bother to carve anything?

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  • Why bother to carve anything?

    Why do you carve? Why do you even bother? I want to hear your thoughts and process and more.

    There are many reasons why I carve but this is one of them. Food for the soul. You have to focus so much, it might be that you have a sharpen a carving knife in your hand - so your mind becomes a one thought process, everything else anxiety, stress and even hardcore pain drops away. When I first started carving I was in serious chronic pain, bad enough to not do anything at all, in fact, that I was in the wheelchair staring at the walls thinking my whole old life was pretty well gone. I had it figured that life had taken away my life force of working in the arts as the pain was bad enough that I just could not focus. My mom was an artist who quit art, here I was in the same mess.

    Mom passed away, and I felt she let her talent go, and I was not going to do the same I picked up a wood chisel from my grandfather after he passed away and got a piece of wood and a book.

    All the stress just fell away as I worked on this one thing and that pulled me into it. I could find this calm space and that, it helped me in tons of ways and above all finding a new form of art to do. One thing about wood carving you have to focus on it, one step at a time. My hands hurt, I would drop my chisel and carving knife and had to resharpen often, even holding things one way was impossible but I found a way to do it. Working on that wood my pain, my worries, and everything left me, it was just me and the wood. I found it mediative.

    Now twelve years later…I sell my work as a professional artist to top collectors. I am although slow as a turtle at my work, but with patience and a sense of KNOWING. Wood carving brings peace of mind, so much so that people teaching it to vets who have been seriously lost limbs, gives them hope and faith. Wood carving is today is my life force. But it can be a wonderful hobby that brings you a little more than that …it brings peace and calm especially today in this troubled world pandemic.
    Last edited by DiLeon; 11-04-2020, 11:43 AM.
    . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di

  • #2
    There was on this forum a man, his name is Forrest. Forrest lived in rural Tenn. and he would carve these super tiny people and animals in a folk style carving. At the time he carved these little twilight wolves the size of a Nickle. People would buy his wood carving, they were something made by human hands, not made by some cold machine. He knew the reaction that people get from someone when they pick up a wood-carved item is so wonderful. The wood has grown on its own, then it’s been loved and shaped by him. He knew that often people hold it and they feel the emotional weight of it. The once live tree was made into something by him.

    The older ways of doing something,... have a more emotional weight to them and then people can build memories on top as they use it for the rest of their life. Forrest had cancer and was dying but that did not stop him from carving nor from him being on this board. He was one of the kindest people that I have known on this forum. Wood carving did matter to him, as it does to me. Forrest was beloved by all of us woodcarvers. Woodcarving matters.
    Last edited by DiLeon; 11-04-2020, 11:46 AM.
    . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


    • #3
      Hi Di , Boy you are so good with Words . You are so Right about Wood Carving taking your mind away from your Stress and some Pain , the Mind does some Great things . This really happened to me . On 1 occasion my Shop was HOT and another it was COLD . Both were Temperatures that was keeping me out of the Shop but I wanted to just do a Small Bit of Carving while it was Fresh in my Mind . On both Occasions I was not HOT or Cold till I got up to get a Tool then I was Hot and Cold . This just happened a few Years ago so the Old Mind still Functions pretty good . I agree with everything you said above and your Mind is still working . Keep doing what you do because Wood Carving does keep you YOUNG and your Mind Working and ALERT . Merle


      • #4
        There are, or were, three parts to my wood carving. First, I like to watch the appearance of the curly shavings so nearly transparent in thickness. I take pride in being able to sustain steel edges to do that. Second, I carve what I see and know is in the wood. This reflects a prediction that my grandmother made to me a very long time ago. Third, I had a very abstract job. As the decades rolled by, I really had nothing of substance to show for long days and longer weeks. With wood carving, I'm satisfied at the end of every day to see some concrete progress.
        Brian T


        • #5
          Interesting question. I tend to shy away from metaphysical theories nor does carving provide some link to the past for me. I think I simply enjoy the challenge and convenience of the hobby. I have worked with my hands most of my life and have generally been able to do most things I have attempted. From a fairly early age I have believed it important to have hobbies. Things you do for yourself enjoyment. I have enjoyed many hobbies and wood carving is my current hobby. I considered working in clay but once you start a project you’re on the clock and trying to keep it wet but not to wet and wrapping and unwrapping wasn’t going to work for me. With wood, if the fish are biting, the road is calling to us or the weather is conducive to golf. That piece of wood is happy to sit and wait it fits my life and provides a seemingly unlimited challenge.


          • #6
            I've had many hobbies and time has eroded the enthusiasm for them...except wood carving. I do small caricature carvings and there is an attraction to wood, knives, and carving. When carving I ignore time, relax, and find it is very pleasurable. Do have a Scandinavian background and see the beauty in flat plane carving and the history.

            As a friend, who did oil painting, once said...painting is cheaper than a psychiatrist. I'll say the same for wood carving...

            Living among knives and fire.


            • #7
              An awesome video about wood carving and your mental health. Especially there is so much worry, stress, and anxiety while we are in the beginning stages of a pandemic which has caused lots of secondary effects and major issues for some people. This came out a month ago....and I give the author of this video a major thumbs up. 8 minutes and worth a watch. Woodcarving and mental health benefits..

              Wood carving, mental health benefits. In this video we share some thoughts on the mental benefits of learning wood carving. Wood carving has many benefits fo...
              . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


              • #8
                Pondering this more...I literally love this one: wood carving reconnects our spirits with nature. Are You asking how? Well, wood was once alive and I am deeply connected with it. For many of the arts, I did not feel this connection. Painting smells of chemicals, some of which are processed to death. Ceramic statues and the earth,...cold, wet and slimy although that was probably my most successful sellers? Bronze no matter how you cut it is cold and earthy. I feel more relaxed and naturally more positive when I am working with wood. It has a warm good smell, a great look that I love, it feels better in touch and it just feels right to have wood around. It is our mother Nature. It is important to me that I give something back. I plant lots of trees so the next generations will have some wood to carve from and oxygen to breathe.
                . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brian T View Post
                  There are, or were, three parts to my wood carving. First, I like to watch the appearance of the curly shavings so nearly transparent in thickness. I take pride in being able to sustain steel edges to do that. Second, I carve what I see and know is in the wood. This reflects a prediction that my grandmother made to me a very long time ago. Third, I had a very abstract job. As the decades rolled by, I really had nothing of substance to show for long days and longer weeks. With wood carving, I'm satisfied at the end of every day to see some concrete progress.
                  I note also your carving are very traditional based usage of tools and methods. Would you mind elaborating as to why?

                  . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


                  • #10
                    Dileon, it has been a bunch of things which all came together, intersected, maybe 20 years ago.

                    Decades ago, I inherited a small 4 figure cedar totem pole. Very important that I have it.
                    The carving is exquisite, not a single visible knife mark.
                    I am supposed to know who the carver was (pre-1954), but anyone who might tell me is dead now.

                    I was taught wood carving with gouges and mallets and also free-hand sharpening.
                    I live surrounded by Pacific Northwest First Nations art and culture. I spent considerable time over several winters in an attempt to learn who carved the little pole. No such luck except to learn that it was Mid-coast/Kwakwaka'Wakw.

                    I was splitting cedar chunks up in the mountains one early day and came to realize that I was holding a salmon by the tail in the wood in my hand.
                    Very spooky at the time as I recalled my grandmother's words, now I enjoy that when it happens.

                    After many years, I began to wonder the effectiveness of the wood carving crooked knives and adzes which are so common here. I got some encouragement from watching several old YouTubes.

                    In the beginning, what held me back was the idea that apprentice carvers had to make their own tools. I seemed to lack opportunity for that. Then I learned that there is a number of very good bladesmiths in the Pac NW that make tools and blades.

                    I had the good fortune to make acquaintance with a few Haida and Kwakwaka'Wakw carvers, artists really, who made very welcome guiding suggestions to me.

                    I'm comfortable with a crooked knife in each hand, especially knives that I've put together for myself.
                    That's about it. I put my head down and the next time I look up, it's spring again!
                    Brian T


                    • #11
                      As I said before, my folks had a small meat processing plant and we were required to be outside the city limits. There were not many families living in our neck of the woods. helping out in the plant from the age of six, I had a knife in my hands early on. In the summer I would work a couple of hours in the morning a couple in the afternoon. So, I had time on my hands and no one close by to play with, so I started carving with a knife my Grandfather had sold me. That right sold to me, It was his belief that if you gave something sharp to someone, it would cut your friendship.

                      I would say I whittle more than carve. No figurines, just stuff, wood guns, throwing spears, in stuff while in cub scouts, etc. Then school, sports, girls, and raising a family took over.

                      While living in Montana, I had a small excavating business & sometime in the winter and I've seen -72°, you didn't much but stay inside & I began to carve again. Then we moved to Nevada and I started working for engineering firms as an sr. cad tech/designer, A job that I enjoyed more than anything else I had done, My plan to work until I was 75. Then in '09 we know what happens, work began drying up---I made through four lay-offs, but when the fifth one came along it was a decision be a well-rounded 27-year-old man and me, and they made the right decision and let me go this time.

                      There I was 70 and nothing to do but watch TV. for six months I set in my chair a sculled like an old wet setting hen. Then I dug out an old set of x-acto knives I had had since cub scouts. And as they say, the rest is history.

                      Sure I have my health problem, but you know what while I'm carving, they don't bother me

                      . . .JoeB


                      • #12
                        I have been carving for about 75 years, but it has not been one form of carving. It went from toys to whittling to chip carving and relief. Many of us have a creative urge that has to be scratched, but I have studiously avoided having any hobby dominate my life. My main career for 40 years was in the U.S. space program. I have maintained other interests while pursuing my carving. I have never allowed woodcarving to become a business or source of income for me. I enjoy pushing my limits with the carving projects I choose. The first time I entered a carving in a judged competition was two years ago.


                        • #13
                          Because I love to carve!

                          We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi


                          • #14
                            I carve because I am rebellious. Back in the day girls didn't do stuff like caring or so I was told. I carve because the smell of cut wood reminds me of making wood (firewood) with my dad and my family. I carve because I don't have a lot of money(cheap} and if I want cool decorations for our home I can carve, sew or paint them. I have many hobbies. I carve spoons and make bread boards because I get satisfaction using something I have made. I can take a dirty tree root or a piece of driftwood and make something amazing at least in my own mind. Sometimes I sell something I carve.
                            I carve because if I didn't along with my other hobbies, I would be bored to tears. I hate being bored.
                            My ETSY shop:


                            • #15
                              I had actually bought the first issue of WCI when it came out in 1997. The article on letter carving caught my eye. I was making toys at the time. But I was getting tired of all the noise, and tools and mess. I wanted something quiet and simple. I had even bought a Dastra bench knife from the Rag Shop. But it wasn't sharp enough to carve with. So, I was intimidated by the carving process and I forgot about it.

                              On December 1, 2004, my Dad was admitted to the hospital with a collapsed lung. He had begun the long road to the end of his life because he had COPD. I had gone home after a long day at the hospital, and just started looking at woodcarving stuff--books, magazines, wood, tools--just to get my mind off everything. I picked up a sharp tool and started carving and didn't stop. So, I carve because I always found my place--that place--where I could get away from the world as we know it and just give my mind a rest. It still serves me well 16 years later--and beside my wife, Michelle, it is probably the only thing that got me through this last year. Thanks for asking Di--you reminded me why I love wood carving so much.