This is my first sculpture. I started studying carving with wood in December under the guidance of Marika Bordes, who, by happy coincidence, also lives in this little city on the plains of South Central Texas. I’m amazed that I’ve already finished a piece.

The piece you see here is about two feet tall and four inches wide. I started out practicing line carving in the center of a cast-off board, a remnant of more than one home-improvement project. Then, I moved toward what became the top to practice making a raised square. I worked with my gouge and my mallet until I had a decent looking rectangle and then showed it to my teacher.

Marika’s eye recognized something in the lowly board with my practice gougings that I hope one day to be able to see myself. She suggested that I add the bigger rectangle at the bottom because the lines I had already carved suggested a figure to her. I’m a willing student, so I set to work carving a big rectangle, happy to be consolidating my skill at placing the gouge and popping little orzo-shaped bits of wood up out of the board.

It doesn’t take too long to sketch a rough rectangle into a soft wood like pine. The real commitment to the sculpture comes in the sanding. I sanded for hours at Marika’s studio and more hours on my front porch at home until the wood felt like the example Marika had shown me to help me understand how fine a finish I would need to close the pores and seal the wood from the elements and time. In sanding, I saw every wound I had made with my inexpert wielding of the gouge. I could “fix” some of the misplaced cuts but not all of them.

It’s my first sculpture, not my only sculpture, because I’ve already started my second. Actually, I started the second one before the first. I intended this one to be a sculpture, whereas the “first” one graduated from practice board to finished work.

Truth be told, I was too scared to carve the branch Marika gave me. I was afraid that my inexpert hands were not only not going to be able to shape the wood to the image I hold in my imagination for it, but were going to destroy the natural beauty of this found piece of wood. I wish I had taken a picture of the raw branch before I cleaned the bark off, so I could show you the wood in its raw state. I also wish I had taken a picture before I — with the help of Marika and Howard Crunk — started to coax my imagined whooping crane out of the soft, soft wood. Although we don’t know for sure which tree produced this branch, I can tell you that it carves more easily than a pound of butter that has been in the freezer.

From time to time, I’ll update you on the progress of my second sculpture, and my development into a person who can carve her vision into wood.