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Wednesday 30 December 2015

Teaching woodcarving at Nailsea school, near Bristol: carving a Green Man into a log of Ash wood

On the weekend before Christmas, I went back to Nailsea school to do some more woodcarving tuition. After teaching a very enjoyable session there previously, working with pupils at the school, I was looking forward to it!

woodcarving at Nailsea school

This session was a little different as all of the people attending were adults and the session was partially funded by a local community group; the Nailsea Community Trust. We also had to carve in the art room instead of the outdoor DEN space, as the rain was pouring down outside. 

However, the tables in that room were at just the right height to carve (carver's benches are generally higher than joiner's benches). The hot drinks and snacks were also on hand courtesy of Rebecca Hollingdale, who runs the DEN project at the school and who organised the session.

The Green Man is such an intriguing image, open to such varied interpretation, that I always enjoy watching people carve them. We were using logs of Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), sourced  by the DEN project from recent woodland management work. 

teaching woodcarving to adults

Ash is very pleasant to work with when freshly-cut and green, but can be tough work to carve by hand once seasoned. It is also not particularly durable outdoors, but that could be an attractive feature for some people I'm sure - the image of the Green Man returning to nature.

carving a green man in wood

After a brief safety talk and a few (hopefully) handy pointers about facial anatomy, the group started carving. Some people were quite happy to get stuck in, but others were more reluctant to start cutting in deeply. Sculpting a face can be quite daunting and I can completely understand that some people would feel a little nervousness and even frustration when setting out to do such a project. I've found that for many learners who feel a bit overwhelmed, the best thing to do is just to start carving, removing the outer bark at first to see where the process takes you.

carving ash wood

Once everyone was into the flow of things, one of the most rewarding things about the day was seeing everyone starting to create unique and expressive sculptures. All of the faces were very different and by the end everyone seemed very happy with the carvings that they had produced. 

Some people used the differently-coloured inner and outer bark layers against the pale ash wood to make some very interesting designs.

Some faces seemed to show someone who was relaxed, others were much more dynamic with expressive tool marks left on them:

It was great to see all of the faces put together at the end (apart from one, as the person who carved it had to go home a bit earlier). I'm sure you'll agree that they look very interesting together, showing a few different interpretations of the image of the Green Man.

green man woodcarving

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