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Qualities of a Carver

What are the most important qualities or attitudes a newcomer to carving could cultivate?

Misericord, St. Gall Church, Langeac, France.

Some 25 years ago, I asked this of Gino Masero, the master carver who became my woodcarving mentor.

He pulled out 2 big ones:

1. Commitment

 "A sincere and positive commitment of oneself to carving ... the determination to hang on despite distractions and problems."

Carving is hard work! It takes a long time!

It's true you need 'passion' but to me this means  'commitment', and that translates as persistence, tenacity, and patience.

This doesn't mean you have to be happy with how things are going but it does mean the ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with problems or delay - and to keep going.

It's not working out? Stop. Think. Do you need more information? A model? What's missing?

You've made a mistake? Well, that's pretty normal! Repairable? Disguisable? Don't panic. Perhaps you need to start again. If you do, take a deep breath... and start again. It'll be quicker the second time.

Be like that little dog who's got you around the ankle, who hangs on no matter how you shake your leg...

2 Humility

"... as one advances in the craft, one begins to select suitable subjects and ideas with which to further ones aims as a carver. However, beginners tend to be a little ambitious in their choices."

My take on this is what I call the 'path of regular steps'. It would be the same for any skill, be it a craft, a sport or playing a musical instrument:   

You are starting here, and you want to be there - right?

Here's the terrible truth: There is no magic wand; no Matrix jacking into software that can make you say, 'I know Kung Fu'. Or carving.

Whatever 'talent' you show, you still must put in the work, the bench time. You have to make muscle-brain connections, gain sheer experience. You need continuity. You need to practice.

But, you also need to be intelligent about your practice and find projects that consolidate what you know while challenging the edges of your skill.

Step back. Look at yourself and your carving. That's here.

What do you need to do? What path do you need to follow to get there

There are others I would add:

3 Playfulness

By which I mean: Don't take it all too seriously. Love what you are doing. Forgive yourself.

It's easy to get wound up when you have a commission, or when things 'go wrong'. But stress, anxiety, doesn't help. It never helps, anything!

Remember how lucky you are to have this opportunity. You play the music in this dance of steel and wood, and not many people get to do this.

The more you can relax, the more 'playful' you can be, the more energy you'll have and the more creativity you'll find in yourself.

4 Fearlessness

It's just a piece of wood!

Any fear you have, worry about how things are going; or whether you can do it; or whether it, or you, will be good enough; or what will people think - all that's in you.

It's not in the wood.

And recognizing and overcoming these fears, letting them go, that's all part of the journey.

Have joy in your carving! We carvers are very lucky people.




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