This site uses cookies, your continued use implies you agree with our cookie policy. Dismiss

How Did It All Start?

A question I get asked every now and then:

How did you get into woodcarving?

I need to give you a quick background first:

I was 4 years into a medical course when I finally confronted the fact that this path wasn't for me, so I left, 1974 age 22, without having any idea what to do next. Well, I had one very small idea.

As a student I'd been painting whenever I could; rather surreal paintings driven by my unconscious dilemma (to be here, or not to be here). I thought I could head more down an artistic path.

But, that was not to be. Not only could I find no gallery to take them - 'Not readily salable. Can't you do landscapes?' - but I needed an income, not future promises. So, rather that starve in the ghetto, I got a part-time job for a few months in an office as I tried figure out where I was going.

I'd always been practical and, as I've implied, artistic. My first thought was stonecarving, à la Jude the Obscure, but there were no apprenticeships or instruction to be had. 

Then, by a weird roundabout chance, really out of a blue, left field, I heard of a retired Master Woodcarver who gave lessons in woodcarving: Gino Masero. I wrote to spend the weekend with him, to dip my toes in the waters of woodcarving. Here's what frightens me in retrospect: I could easily not have met Gino and wandered down another path.

Gino had retired from a life steeped in traditional European woodcarving in architectural workshops and now carved privately from a simple studio he'd set up in his house: bench, tools, good lighting and just enough for himself and a student.

I arrived, was given tea and taken upstairs into Gino's 'workshop'. 

So, we are now at the crunch point in my answer to the original question.  And the answer surprises even me!

I walked into the room and was immediately hit by an amazing smell: Limewood.

Gino had been carving in wood from this tree: Tilia Platyphyllos, Broadleaf Lime (Linden)

The heady, honied, frankincense-like aroma called to me; just blew me away. It still does today. And I just wanted that smell in my life' a life that had got used to the smells of hospital antiseptic and lemon-scented floor cleaner.

On the bench were the shavings from a figure Gino had been carving. His woodcarving tools lined up next to it, sharp and, to me: exotic and beautiful things.

And they called to my hands. And in that moment my life turned, as on the head of a pin, and my path was set.

A lovely man and a massively talented carver, Gino became my mentor. And the joy of woodcarving, writing and instructing in carving has been my life ever since.

And to pass on Gino's skills and tradition as best I can.


Sign up to our free newsletter