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.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Chatting with Joachim Seitfudem about the Bavarian woodcarving tradition (and lots of other stuff)

I dropped by today to visit Jo in his studio at The Island in the centre of Bristol. It was great to catch up with him and to see two panels that he has recently carved in the traditional Bavarian style. He learned much of his craft from his father Hans-Joachim Seitfudem, who is a master carver there.

Jo is currently making more contemporary-styled work but said that fancied carving the panels to make sure that he doesn't lose the skills that he learnt in Bavaria from his father.

They are both carved from lime (linden) wood. It's interesting to see how he gets the shapes on the relief panel by cutting planes into the timber; flat surfaces that add up to give the curved surfaces making up the design. He also much prefers a finish that shows the tool cuts, rather than one that is sanded. We agreed that the latter can look very 'plasticky' if done badly.

Jo noted that things tend to be in threes in Bavarian carving (see the three dogs in the panel). He also showed me a small figure that he carved under his father's guidance when he was about fifteen or sixteen years old. His dad gave his a small carving knife and told him to whittle it using that and no other tools. It seems like a good way to learn the importance of working with the wood without relying on your tools to do everything for you.

Against what the general advice to people looking for whittling knives seems to be, I noticed that the carving knife that Jo uses has a sharply curved bevel on both sides, so that it is almost sharpened to have two angles of bevel on each side. It was originally his father's. Usually, the advice in most articles or blogs is that the knife should have a single bevel, sloping from the back to the cutting edge.  My own knife is similar to his in that there is a second, steeper, bevel to the blade. The steep bevels mean that the knife travels naturally out of the cut towards the surface, rather than wanting to travel straight on into the timber. A knife with this steep bevel can do some pretty fine work too:

We also had an interesting chat about the guild system in Bavaria. Woodcarvers have a guild system there, like carpenters and many other traditional trades. The carvers can also follow a journeyman path, where they study with at least two master carvers before making a 'master piece' to become a master themselves (if the master piece is good enough). Traditionally, only master carvers could open a workshop so the quality of work in the trade was kept high. Jo said that he did not complete his training to master level, mainly because it is quite expensive (about 10,000 euros).

Guild journeyman carvers dress, like other wood-based trades, in black with a black hat. The earring that they wear in the left ear is of gold, with a small carving tool (gouge, mallet etc.) that they have carved from wood fixed to it. Like other woodworking  guilds the ear is pierced using a rusty nail, which the journeyman will then carry on them often in their hat band. We discussed how sad it is that the traditional skills have become more fractured in Britain, which does not have a guild system in the same way. There is a 'Guild of Master Carvers' in existence here, but it is a very different kind of thing.

Jo has a show in Bath at the 44AD gallery from the 7th to the 13th of October 2013. You can see some of his current work from a previous show here.

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