When I get an idea for something that I want to carve the first step is to go searching for the piece of wood that will work for the project. This sounds relatively easy but in reality it can be the most difficult part of the process. What you deal with is changing the idea. It’s almost as if nature itself dictates what it is that you will be making. I have set out with a firm idea in mind, but then come across a piece of wood that changes the entire plan. I didn’t look on line at all when I started this hobby, I had an idea for a walking staff and made a few, about five to six feet in length, with a leather strap in place to wrap around your wrist. After I had made a few, the inevitable remarks followed once I had shown them to a few people…”You should sell these things on ebay” So I did a search of ebay and discovered that there are plenty of people out there selling exactly what I had made, damn. I mean the same design, only they added a cheap compass clipped onto the leather strap and were selling the “hiking sticks” for fifty to sixty dollars each. It seems that there really is nothing you can say and do that hasn’t been done before. I wanted to carve a face on a walking stick, but had no idea how to start. One night, while watching the DIY network they had a guy with a carving studio on giving a lesson in carving wood spirits, it was a half hour show and fifteen minutes into it he had answered all of my questions about the process. I have since carved quite a few, note my profile picture to your left. (to me they all look like Jack Palance)
With these developments, I began to have grand visions of a small studio/workshop/storefront where I could spend my days carving and selling my work. But, as usual, reality set in. People like to see the things I carve and they do have nice comments about the stuff, but no one wants to pay for it. This past Christmas I made Santa ornaments & gave several away as gifts, they were well received. I have even gotten orders for next Christmas, which is neat. After Christmas had come and gone, I sat back and added up the amount I would have charged for everything that I had carved and given away from the middle of last summer through the Christmas season. I came up with the figure of $975.00, which doesn’t include anything given as a gift. I just get excited and show people the things I have carved, if they really like it, I give it to them. That seems to go against the grain of capitalism I know, but I enjoy the look of appreciation I get from doing it. I have since stopped the free flow of labor and now give nothing away. When someone says that they would love to have something like that I usually answer them with “For forty dollars you can have that one right there.” Needless to say, I’ve only sold one since incorporating this new plan….
One of the perks of carving faces and such out of wood has been my four year old helping me. When I am on the porch covered in wood chips and sawdust he is sure to be there with all of his tools around him working on a piece of wood he has gotten out of the yard. He has a specially selected butter knife that he uses to carve with. He can also be quite a hoot going out with me when I am looking for that specific piece of wood to make something out of. Another perk was seeing the reaction my father had when I first showed him some of the finished work I had done. I knew he wouldn’t believe I had made them. So I showed him a few plain walking sticks first, then I showed him the ones I had carved. He seemed to genuinely like the work. He asked me to find him a piece of wood that had a natural cross in it and carve him a detailed crucifix into it. I told him that that would have to wait until I got a bit better at what I was doing. Since his death I have only finished one piece, I showed it to a few people and they seemed to like it. I was actually on my way over to my parent’s house to show my Dad then I remembered. But hey, I’ve picked up the phone a dozen times to call him as well, generally about something I hear on the radio that I thought he would’ve gotten a kick out of. It’s tougher than I realized it would be, I can see, hear, and feel him in every tree, stick, and rock throughout the woods when I’m on the prowl for material. I miss him terribly. I came across a piece of metal, like an old tent peg or something, the other day. He had told me to toss it out several years ago when we were at the shop doing something. I was in the woods looking for a good piece with a natural walking stick bend when I found it. I had used it for a while as a knife, throwing into trees and the ground, when playing ninja. I stuck it into the tree that stands at the dirt road junction, the one we had tried to start building a tree house in. There are still a few of the nails we had put into the tree to climb it. That’s what I mean when I say that his spirit inhabits everything around there. I think the thing I enjoyed the most about him seeing and commenting on the work was that he was one of the few people that liked it, but never tried to tell me that I needed to find an avenue to sell it. He just seemed to enjoy my talent and told me so. I don’t know why people go immediately to how I can make money from it, it’s not offensive to me for people to mention it, it’s just one of the top two reactions to my work that I get. The other reaction still perplexes me to no end. Several people seem to get angry when they see my work, petty and brush it off as nothing decent. Oh well. Maybe they are jealous, or it isn’t that good. The important thing to me is that I enjoy it. The hardest part about it is the same as most any hobby, finding the time to do it. I made the mistake a while back of trying something different. I had, up to that point, done one piece at a time, from start to finish. Then it was suggested to me to try an “assembly line” approach. “Spend one day finding wood, the next week or so sanding and carving, then have a staining and painting party”. Needless to say that didn’t work out so well. I still have five or six things to finish. It adds to the feeling of falling behind when I see unfinished projects.
Simply put, the main reason I carve things out of wood is that I enjoy it. I have always been a person that looks for simple things to enjoy. I have been told that I am easily amused, and I am. I get a big kick out of things most people don’t think anything about. While standing in the parking lot of Hudson’s barbecue after a lunch meeting with a customer, a train came through town and stopped across the street. We watched while a guy got out of the engine, came through the ditch, across the street and into the take out part of the place. We both said “No way” when we realized what he was doing. Sure enough, he came out with a greasy bag, got back in the engine car and took off, it was priceless. Its little things like that that makes getting out of bed worthwhile to me. So if you want to see what I have made, or wish to buy something you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.