Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | April 12, 2010

The Secret to Successful Woodcarving

Everyone wants to be a better wood carver than they are.  Everyone wants to have greater success in selling their art, doing well at a show or doing better at whatever applies to their life.  And, everyone wants to help others in anyway they can.  The secret to becoming a better carver and enjoying more success may lie in the previous sentence.

“Practice” is important to improvement, but the first aspect of the secret to successful woodcarving lies in being generous with your time and your knowledge in helping others develop their own skills in carving.  In reality, even an expert woodcarver is no better than a novice or than someone who does not carve at all.  We may have been carving longer or perhaps we have learned a technique or a trick that others have yet to learn but, we are all the same.  Sharing our knowledge and our time is a wonderful way to get better at what we do.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful feeling to know that we had contributed to introducing woodcarving to another… a child perhaps?  Or, wouldn’t it be a wonderful feeling to help a novice progress with his or her carving.  Who knows, you may have a very real role in introducing a new great master carver to the world.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful feeling to help a seasoned carver with something she or he had been struggling with?  In doing any of the above we will have made a measurable difference and, it’s even fun.  In thinking about this, please consider this last question…  Wouldn’t it be best if our assistance was offered from the heart and not from the ego.  The reward would be much greater.  In fact, I would suggest that acting out of the ego will bring no satisfaction at all.

A second aspect to becoming a successful carver lies in being generous with your carvings themselves.  Let’s face it, what are we going to do with all those whittlings and carvings that we have produced anyway?  If you have not seen the eyes of a person when you gift them with a carving, you are missing a great joy.  I have spoken with people who were the recipient of a gifted carving 20 and 30 years ago and they love to tell the story and remember the occasion of receiving the gift.  In all cases, they still have the carving and they still remember the delight in receiving the gift.  A gift of a carving is a legacy to you and your craft.

We all create things that we feel are special and tend to want to hold on to them… but it is also true that if you let it go, you can easily do another… remember, you are a woodcarver.  The other day, my grand kids were visiting and I ask one of them if they still have a particular carving that I had given them a couple of years back.  Her mom spoke up and said… “are you kidding, she has all of your carvings displayed in her bedroom like a shrine.”   Hearing that made my heart soar… okay, there was probably some ego in there somewhere.

Now then, living a “carveful” life brings us a very real joy and that, in itself, is enough but guess what? …  there is a bonus.  When we are generous with our time, knowledge and our finished carvings, there is a magic that happens.  It is as though the great carving god wants to reward us for our generosity and joyful service.  I guarantee you, you will benefit from your generosity ten fold.  You will find your own carving skill improving; you may find yourself the recipient of a prize piece of wood that someone had stored for 20 years or was throwing out; you might find that all of a sudden, you receive several commissions out of the blue; you may find that someone has featured you in an article; or a myriad of other possible personal benefits.  While this latter is not the reason that any of us should act selflessly, it is an inevitable bonus.

One thing I’ve noticed about carvers all my life is their generosity.  I owe so many fine carvers for what they have shared with me.  And, I think most of them know what I have written about being “carveful” applies to all aspects of their life too.

Stay Sharp and be carveful!

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  1. Michael, I love your tagline: “be carveful”. I would like to suggest that you add another tagline in honor of Mr. Don Mertz. And that would be “bee heartful“!! He exudes big heart energy and this world is a better place because of him.

  2. Thank you for sharing your words about being a successful wood carver. I could not agree more.
    I was taught that the only things we get to keep, are the things we give away.
    I love your reference to the ego, and to the great carving God that rewards us ten fold for generosity.
    When ever my sales start to decline, I know that the secret is to give something away. Before you know it, you will be scrambling to rebuild inventory.
    I was given the gift of chainsaw carving from a friend, and continue the tradition of sharing the best that I can.
    Again it was a great joy to read your words.

    Thank You

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