After the first day back in the studio

I thought I would spend this spring break working in the only room in my house that still has wallpaper the former owners selected. Instead, I can see a bird emerging from my branch of unknown wood.

I learned three big lessons this week:

  • A big change of plans isn’t that hard to accomplish, even when you’ve already carved a shape into the wood.
  • Mistakes are opportunities to find unexpected beauty.

Day Two: Head emerging

In a way, these first two lessons are really one: wood is malleable. I can carve deeper. I can use another technique to express my idea more fully. I can collect my sawdust and use it to build a place up or fix a crack.

The third lesson is more profound:

  • Carve away everything that distracts attention from what you want people to see in the sculpture.

At the end of Day 3: Leg, tail, body.

This means drawing deep, firm lines with the v-parting tool around all the body parts of the crane. It means making sure the grass isn’t so high that it hides the legs. Open up the area around the tail and legs by removing layer after thin layer of the branch until the crane emerges from the background.

At the end of the third day of work in the studio, Marika took a wooden cigar box out of the cupboard and said, “Take these tools home with you. You don’t need me.” She took the lid off the box and pulled out all the different kinds of carving tools I might need but don’t own. “These are small, but with the soft wood you have, they will work fine.”

When I had packed up my own gouge and mallet along with the treasure trove of borrowed tools and swept the sawdust and chips off the floor around my work table, I picked up my bag and branch to leave.

“Dare,” Marika said as I walked out the door.