Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | June 10, 2009

Woodcarving is more the Journey than the Destination – by Donald K. Mertz

WOODCARVING IS MORE THE JOURNEY THAN THE DESTINATION

by Donald K. Mertz

“Art is running away from home without leaving home.” The art of woodcarving is a journey that takes the carver to a whole new world of amazing discoveries that includes creativity, technique, imagination, friendship and an inner tranquility of accomplishment.

What does every carver do upon finishing a carving project? Look forward to beginning another carving project. The real joy for the woodcarver is in the actual carving process rather than the finished carving. The destination of a finished carving may be as a gift, a competition entry, a commission sale or a dust collector on the shelf. All the trophies of finished carvings are nice to look at, but the heart and soul of the carver is to do the actual carving, the journey, rather than looking at the souvenirs of the journey.

While carving, one is on a journey of traveling the wood carving path towards the adventure of creative self discovery in the joy of creating. On this journey the carver thrills at the process of the cutting tool removing wood and shaping wood into a pre-conceived mental image of the subject being carved. If the carver listens intently one can not only hear the silky swish of the cutting edge slicing through the wood but also a shout of freedom as the carving subject is being set free from the prison of the wood that imprisons it.

On this journey one meets the best of people, if not face to face, but in the mystery of shared creative minds and hearts sharing the passion of the art of wood carving. It is like my friendship with Michael Keller of White Eagle Studios. We have never met and probably never will because there is a vast nation between Washington State and the State of Ohio. And yet, we know each other because of the bond of the thread of woodcarving that binds us together. We met each other through web sites, web blog and email and it was like we have known each other since childhood. That’s the joy of the journey in making friendships that were already made but awaiting an introduction through the window of wood carving.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” is an ancient observation. The woodcarving journey begins with a single intention to carve that begins with an idea. The carving idea only becomes reality in the actual carving process. “Turning the soil over in your mind does not plow the field,” is the same as carving an idea in one’s mind does not create a carving. “The hardest part of any project is getting started, and once begun the creative juices flow,” has been my experience on the woodcarving journey. So the journey of carving begins by “getting started,” putting the cutting tool to the wood to remove chips and begin to form the idea of the mind.

Often the journey begins without knowing where it will end up so we carve the journey to see where it will take us. Even if we have a clear mental picture in our minds or a photograph model or a life study, yet we know that as we carve towards that model it will become our own through creative interpretation. It is like “learning on the job” in that as we carve towards some distant and yet to be discovered destination we make “discoveries of illumination” that shines a light upon carving accomplishment. Discoveries like a simple cut in the design opens up a whole new direction in the design. Was this discovery an “accident” or was it our “sub-conscious creativity” breaking into the carving process to show us the way to go? Trying to use the carving tool is an unconventional way reveals a “carving trick” to be remembered to be used again because it works. Changing the original design here and there may add a little more interest of a flowing story. Doing that little extra of carving an extra detail makes the carving sing and dance rather than just stand there looking pretty.

Adding some curving lines makes the design journey of the eye see the sights of serendipity discovery along the path. A “straight line” to the destination of duplicating an exact copy of the “model” leaves nothing for the imagination. “The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line,” yet in the journey of carving it is the snaking and curving lazy “S” paths that add interest to any carving.

Every new carving project becomes a new journey that will use what has been learned on previous journeys but also open to making a detour to journey off the beaten path. “Two roads diverged in the wood and I chose the one less traveled and that has made all the difference,” when adapted to the carving journey is an invitation to try various carving styles, types, subjects and techniques. This adventuresome journey itinerary includes reading carving magazines, book and internet searches, attending and participating in carvings shows and joining a carving club or carving with friends. We never can learn much by talking only with ourselves and the “self taught has a fool for a teacher.” Associating with other carvers makes the journey a richer experience. “It is what you learn after you know it all that really counts,” is an observation that encourages we woodcarvers to avail ourselves to take carving classes and seminars, both of carving subjects we do and those we have never tried, in order to learn and be inspired.

Journey down a new path, take a side road and carve that project you have always wanted to try but were afraid to start. Be adventuresome by stretching one’s ability and relax in order to enjoy the ride because “Woodcarving is the journey more than the destination.”

The WOOD BEE CARVER – Donald K. Mertz – www.woodbeecarver.com

White Eagle Studios would like to thank Don Mertz for this most thoughtful article.  Never, have I ever heard a description of the the process and experience of woodcarving stated so eloquently.  Be sure and visit Don at the above link often.  Also, watch for Don in woodcarving publications.  His articles are always, educational, motivational and very well written.

You are invited to enter a guest article of your own related to wood carving.  If used, I will credit the article to you and provide a link to your own site and/or your e-mail address.  I do reserve the right to review for appropriateness; and, if necessary, make minor modifications.  Submit articles to: mkeller@whiteeaglestudios.com.


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