As well as this blog, I also have a website and Instagram page with lots more images of my work as well as a few more stories.
If you like woodcarvings, you might want to have a look.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Chris Pye's woodcarving secrets and a woodcarving poem

I get regular email newsletters from a very skilled woodcarver named Chris Pye. I really admire his thoughtful attitude towards carving as well as his work.
The repetiton of the cut in carving (gouge, chisel or knife cutting over and over again) has struck me for a long time as a kind of mantra. It gives a pattern within which it is easy to slip off into thought. You also need to be pretty philosophical if a bit of carving breaks off unexpectedly!

Anyway, the most recent newsletter had a couple of sections which really caught my eye and I'd like to share them here, for those who can't see the original newsletter. Thanks to Chris for sharing them with his readers...

"Top 10 Secrets of Woodcarving!

I scribbled this list, with it's notes, on a scrap of paper about 25 years ago. I came across it the other day and realised that, since then, I hadn't changed my mind at all!
I was thinking of the qualities that I believe go to making up a really good carver: things good carvers consider as they carve, or with which they work; things students should always bear in mind.

1 Do it! Practise. Do it a lot.

2 Persistence! Don't stop.

3 Regular steps! Incremental challenges.

4 Preparation! You can't have too much research, which includes drawing and modelling.

5 Tools! The right ones, and enough of them.

6 Correct bevels and edge! Sharp tools, cutting efficiently.

7 Work from the tool! The tools are the carving.

8 Slicing cuts! The 'cut of the carver'.

9 Carve the form into the spaces! Not the other way round.

10 Light and Shadow! Gives 3 dimensionality."

The other bit that particularly stood out was this Taoist poem:

Chuang Tzu: Poem of the Woodcarver

trans. Thomas Merton

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand

Of precious wood. When it was finished,

All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:

What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded

I guarded my spirit, did not expend it

On trifles, that were not to the point.

I fasted in order to set

My heart at rest.

After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.

After five days

I had forgotten praise or criticism.

After seven days
I had forgotten my body

With all its limbs.

By this time all thought of your Highness

And of the court had faded away.

All that might distract me from the work

Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought

Of the bell stand.
Then I went to the forest

To see the trees in their own natural state.

When the right tree appeared before my eyes,

The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.

All I had to do was to put forth my hand

and begin.

If I had not met this particular tree

There would have been

No bell stand at all.

What happened?

My own collected thought

Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;

From this live encounter came the work

Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

Chuang Tzu was a 3-4th century BCE Chinese Taoist.

Chris Pye has a website which can be found by clicking on this link:

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