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Carving and Sculpture

Adventures in Maine

Mary May, Woodcarver - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 7:09pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

Last weekend I taught a very busy and successful weekend workshop at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in beautiful Warren, Maine. It was a beginning class and we covered a lot of basic instruction.

We carved an apple in relief as a beginning carving project that focuses on working in the correct grain direction. I try to vary that first basic lesson just to keep it new. Then we carved that wonderful beginning project – the camellia! It covers so many things for a beginner, that I just keep it as my favorite basic carving project. We were having so much fun with the camellia that time was cut short a little to finish the classic shell carving. We made it through all the steps, but just needed a little more time to completely finish it.

The Lie-Nielsen classroom and everyone hard at work.
Awesome new tool that Lie-Nielsen is starting to sell - mainly for spoon making, but great for lowering the background!
Focus on the camellia.
More camellia carving.
Carving a camellia flower into a painted lid.
Carving the scallop shell in mahogany.

Then Monday thru Thursday I had the great opportunity of filming an intermediate woodcarving video for Lie-Nielsen (the basic carving video filmed earlier should be out shortly). It took me a while to get used to the studio lights, cameras, and that self-conscious awkwardness of being in the spotlight, but I survived.

The video is going to show how to carve 2 different flowers – a lilly and a rose (basically an extreme camellia) in deep relief. I don’t know how long the final film will be, but probably over 3 hours of carving instruction.

Isn’t it odd that I spend much of my time carving in my own workshop with a video camera nearly always running? THAT doesn’t make me uncomfortable. But put me in a studio atmosphere with other people around, and my tongue gets tied up, my brain freezes, and I can’t remember my name. Having said that, once a chisel gets in my hand – in that environment – I’m home! All in all, it went really well and I finally got tired of being self conscious and got over it. I’m excited to see how it looks on screen.

The lilly, rose (intermediate video) and phlox (beginning video)

The lilly, rose (intermediate video) and phlox (beginning video)

The Studio at Lie-Nielsen.

The Studio at Lie-Nielsen and Harry and Lief – the guys who make it all look right.

Today and tomorrow I get to play. My lovely companion and husband, Stephen, flew to Maine to join me for a few days. I just can’t get over how beautiful this part of the country is. I’m trying to convince Stephen that we need to somehow find a way to spend the 3 summer months here so we don’t have to deal with Charleston heat and humidity.

We have nearly had our fill of lobster – and are sampling various “lobster rolls” where they claim to be the best lobster rolls in the state. The first time I saw a sign for lobster rolls, I thought it was some sort of chinese egg roll with lobster in it. Nope. It’s a lobster in a roll. Go figure. So far, Red’s Lobster rolls in Wiscasset has come out on top. Now I understand why there is always a long line at this little road-side stand.

What am I supposed to do with this? I prefer the lobster rolls - not as much work.

What am I supposed to do with this? I prefer the lobster rolls – not as much work.

On Sunday, we are heading out of a little airport in Rockland. It is a little 9-seater Sessna with Cape Air. I flew in that way, and it was just such a fun experience. You definitely get an close and personal flying experience

Marc Adams Intro to Relief Carving Class

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 2:06pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

Completed carvings.
Students getting ready for demo (ice-cream break).
Assistant, Dave Riley, posing with my online school t-shirt.
The carved lilly.
Mary demonstrating with close-up video.
The lilly in progress.
Finished carvings.
Student focusing hard - maybe needs new glasses?
More samples of finished carvings.
Beautiful carved fan bird that student brought in as show-and-tell.
Some of the finished carvings.
The entire 18 student class hard at work.
Student carving a lilly in relief.

Last week I taught a 5-day Introduction to Relief Carving class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

It was a full class of 18 students, and we worked through several beginning projects and progressing to quite challenging carvings. Everyone persevered and really did an amazing job. As one student commented “You really brought me out of my comfort zone”. I hope that is a good thing! If it was too easy, you wouldn’t learn anything!

Congratulations to everyone!

Sunburst fireplace carving finished

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 8:48am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Center design on the original fireplace.
Side design from original fireplace
Design laid out on wood before carving.
Finished carving

I finished the sunburst fireplace carving in poplar. Here are the photos.

I am pleased with the way it turned out. These sharp edged carvings, when the shadows fall on them, show such dramatic darks and lights. It reminds me of v-cut letter carving. I hope it doesn’t change once it is painted white.

I hope to have a photo of the actual fireplace within a month. Off to play in my workshop (I don’t get a chance to do this much these days).

Happy Carving!

Sunburst Fireplace Carving Finished

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 6:58pm

Mary May - Woodcarver


I recently finished details for a carved fireplace. This is going to be a reproduction of an original Charleston fireplace from the early 19th century. I will post photos when it is built and installed – hopefully within the next month. This is carved in poplar and will be painted.

I recently added a 2-episode video lesson to my online school on how to carve the smaller vertical shaped sunbursts – about 1 hours long.

Today I added the first episode of the video lesson to my online school for carving the large horizontal center sunburst design. This first episode shows how to carve the segments that generally go with the grain. The second and final episode will be added next week and will focus on carving the segments that mostly go across the grain.

I am currently teaching a relief carving class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis. We carved a very challenging lilly today and tomorrow we are going to carve that wonderful acanthus leaf. The class is going great and I’ll share more photos after the week is over.


New FREE beginning carving lesson

Mary May, Woodcarver - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 8:41am

Mary May - Woodcarver

I have added another beginning video lesson to my online school. It is available to free members and shows how to carve a peach and leaf in shallow relief. I plan to add this lesson to my youtube channel also – hopefully by tomorrow.

peach png


You should be able to print the pattern below. If not, let me know.


Sunday I will be heading to Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis to teach a class August 4 – 8 on relief carving. I believe there are still a few spaces available.

There are also a few spots available for the beginning carving class I will be teaching at Lie-Nielsen in Maine August 22 & 23.

I am actually going to get into my workshop today and carve! What a strange concept. I have been so busy with travelling, teaching, video editing, paperwork, taxes (yes, I just finished last year’s taxes) and other distractions, that I haven’t done much carving for the last 2 months. So I am going to take a deep breath, clamp down a piece of wood… and carve… I’m not even sure what I will carve, but I’m just going to see what happens. I have pieces I should work on – commissions and such – but today I just need one of those days where I disappear into carving an unplanned design of… something… I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sunburst Design for a Fireplace Surround

Mary May, Woodcarver - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 7:46pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

I am currently working on carving the details for a reproduction fireplace surround. The style is a traditional Charleston design and has 2 small vertically positioned sunburst designs on either side of a large horizontally shaped one.

I have finished one of the side sunbursts and have just added the video lesson to my online school. The wood I carved this in is poplar. It’s not my favorite wood to carve because it can be kind of spongy and stringy, but since this is going to be painted, this is what the builder chose.

This design is a little unique in that the “rays” on the design are carved down to a corner, rather than a curve – at least on the 2 smaller side ones. This creates a nice, sharp shadow. The large center horizontally positioned one has more rounded and hollowed shaped rays.

The grain pattern turned out to be quite nice, so it is a shame to paint it…

First carved sunburst in poplar
Original 1820's fireplace that I am attempting to reproduce.
Center design on the original fireplace.
Design laid out on wood before carving.

Wortheffort Woodworking School needs your help!

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 9:07am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Shawn Graham, of San Marco, Texas had a dream of opening a school focusing on traditional woodworking skills – Wortheffort Woodworking. He used to be an Industrial Art’s teacher (if that’s what they are called these days – those that are left), so he has a heart for young people. He has had a passion to share the creative knowledge of woodworking to young and old to discover that joy and accomplishment of making something with your own hands.

The school has been open for over a year, but Shawn has discovered the struggles that come along with starting a new venture – mostly financial, proper and convenient location, and the ability to get the word out.

He has had several well-known woodworkers teach at his school – Christopher Schwarz & Shannon Rogers are the ones that come to mind (and little ol’ me scheduled to teach in September 19 – 21)

The current school located in San Marco has closed, but he is wanting to open again within the next few months at a location in Austin, TX – much more centrally located so he can focus on the local population and also homeschoolers in the area.

Please check out his website to learn more about his dream – and if you feel so inclined, please do what you can to help get the word out about his school or contribute to his fundraising efforts to relocate in Austin.

Thanks so much for your support!

New Popular Woodworking Class on Carving a Traditional Fan

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 6:01am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Popular Woodworking Magazine is revving up its online classes. I have recently participated in adding a class on “Fan Carving” which will go live towards the end of July. This design is that simple, yet elegant pattern that is often seen in highboys, chairs, and I have often had requests to carve this on fireplace mantels.

This class shows how to lay out the design, how to carve the curved edge decoration, and how to round over the individual fan segments – focusing on carving in the correct grain direction. Quite often, these are carved where the center of the fan slopes deeper, but this lesson shows the process of carving the design into a flat board – which actually gives you a lot more flexibility of where you can put this. It also requires minimal wood preparation.

Once you learn the technique of carving this fan, you can adjust the design by adding more segments, carving it deeper, changing the size, etc. The options are endless!



Lie-Nielsen Open House

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 11:53am

Mary May - Woodcarver

This past Saturday, after teaching a 5-day class at the Center for Furniture Crafstmanship, I participated in the Lie-Nielsen Open House in lovely Warren, Maine.

I got to see a lot of friends from the woodworking world, and also met some new ones. I enjoyed fabulous lobster that just melted in your mouth, and was entertained by a talk by Peter Follansbee about his adventures with “green wood”. He is a great presenter – and also does some amazing woodwork and 17th century carving. I spent a lot of my time at the show (when I should have been carving myself) watching him shape wood with tools a LOT larger than I use.

Bob Van Dyke of Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking was also there. I will be teaching a class there November 7 – 9. Bring any carving project you are working on and we’ll figure it out! Spaces are still available.

There are also a few spots still available for the beginning carving class I am teaching at Lie-Nielsen August 23 & 24. I am reserving great weather for that weekend – 70 and no humidity!

Center for Furniture Craftsmanship Beginning Closs

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 10:52am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Last week I taught a beginning woodcarving class at a school I have not taught at before – The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in beautiful Rockport, Maine. This school has a wonderful atmosphere of creativity and the students did a great job carving acanthus leaves, camellia flowers and even a Tudor rose! And the setting is simply pristine. Here are some highlights:

Working hard.
Acanthus leaf project and Tudor Rose.
Grace Carving a Tudor Rose.
Tudor Rose in Walnut
Charlie looking very happy with his accomplishments.
Don and Jeremy focusing on the details.
Successfully completed carvings...
Such focus!
Happy students (expecially Mac in the background - who was my assistant during the class).

I had an opportunity to escape the 100 degree temperatures with 90% humidity in Charleston, SC and actually leave the windows open at night to feel a cool breeze (what was that strange feeling?) I really can’t get enough of the Maine climate and beauty.

So… next month I will be coming back again to teach another beginning class at Lie-Nielsen August 23 & 24. Then the following week I will be filming an intermediate woodcarving DVD (the beginning carving DVD should be out soon, so keep your eyes open for that).

I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Chris Pye, who will be teaching an advanced carving class at the school for the next 2 weeks. It’s a small world out there when it comes to woodcarving, and I knew I would meet him along the teaching “circuit” somewhere. He has written several woodcarving instruction books and also has an online school. I could consider him “competition”, but ultimately if our end-goal is to teach this art that we both love, then whatever we do and however we do it will lead to sharing this wonderful art.

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