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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway!  Enjoy!

Thank you to everyone who contributed towards Walt Quadrato's battle against cancer!  Their fundraising goal was met.  Our prayers are with you, Walt!  

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Carving and Sculpture

The Acanthus Leaf – is it a Real Plant??

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 8:22pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

The acanthus leaf definitely is a real plant originally found in the Mediterranean. I have heard that this plant that inspired so many architects and designers thousands of years ago is considered an invasive plant today – sort of like our thistle in the US – and it even resembles the thistle in appearance. I tried to grow one in my garden, and it was really beautiful. I, however, am a woodcarver and not a gardener – so it did not last long in my hands. But I managed to take a photograph of one of the leaves before it met its demise.

So it started as this…

The real plant

The real plant

Then evolved to this…

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Acanthus detail in a Masonic building in Savannah, GA

Or maybe this…

This is an example of an acanthus leaf that is often carved on the knee of a cabriole leg.

This is an example of an acanthus leaf that is often carved on the knee of a cabriole leg.

You can see that the leaf evolved into designs that often have little resemblance to the original plant. But that’s what is so great about this design! There are certain specific design elements that carry through all leaves that identify it as an “acanthus leaf”, but it is the variety that intrigues me the most.

Here are several direct dictionary meanings of “acanthus” which I thought interesting. Hope you do too.

From the Oxford Dictionary:

NOUN

1A herbaceous plant or shrub with bold flower spikes and spiny decorative leaves, native to Mediterranean regions.

[via Latin from Greek akanthos, from akantha ‘thorn’, from akē ‘sharp point’]
  • Genus Acanthus, family Acanthaceae: many species
Architecture A conventionalized representation of an acanthus leaf, used especially as a decoration for Corinthian column capitals.
From Wikipedia:

In architecture, an ornament may be carved into stone or wood to resemble leaves from the Mediterranean species of the Acanthus genus of plants, which have deeply cut leaves with some similarity to those of the thistle and poppy. Both Acanthus mollis and the still more deeply cut Acanthus spinosus have been claimed as the main model, and particular examples of the motif may be closer in form to one or the other species; the leaves of both are in any case, rather variable in form. The motif is found in decoration in nearly every medium.

The relationship between acanthus ornament and the acanthus plant has been the subject of a long-standing controversy. Alois Riegl argued in his Stilfragen that acanthus ornament originated as a sculptural version of the palmette, and only later, began to resemble Acanthus spinosus.[2]

From Collins Dictionary:

acanthus (əˈkænθəs Pronunciation for acanthus or acanth (əˈkænθ)

noun

(plural) -thuses, -thi  (-θaɪ) 

  1. any shrub or herbaceous plant of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean region but widely cultivated as ornamental plants, having large spiny leaves and spikes of white or purplish flowers: family Acanthaceae See also bear’s-breech
  2. a carved ornament based on the leaves of the acanthus plant, esp as used on the capital of a Corinthian column

 

Just a reminder – please join my newsletter if you want to hear join me on my journey and progress of writing The Acanthus Book.book cover-190

Carving a Cartouche – Full Lesson Available

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 8:05pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

I recently added the fifth and final episode of Carving a Cartouche for a Philadelphia Highboy to my Online Carving School. This has been one of the longest lessons I have made (only to be out-done by the Dragon and Acanthus Lesson) and totals around 4 hours. Here is a brief introduction video that shows some of what is included in this lesson.

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Finished cartouche.

 

The lesson covers every part of the carving:

• lowering the area outside the “Philadelphia Peanut”
• re-drawing the design onto the lowered surface
• dividing up all the large elements in the carving
• carving all the details -c-scrolls, leaves and abstract shell design (sometimes called rocaille)
• releasing the design from backer board
• carving the back-side of the cartouche
• finishing up the top curled leaf and the lower rope design

You can see my blog post with photos on the carving process here.

This lesson (along with most other lessons in my online school) is also available in downloadable form for individual purchase for $34.99. This is an option for those who are not members of my online carving school.

Resin Casting

Resin Casting – exact replica of carving

There is also a resin casting available for sale. This lesson in particular is important to have something to view while your are carving it. This casting helps a lot in showing the subtle shapes in this complex design.

Now you just need to build a Philadelphia Highboy so you have a place to put your cartouche!

Please sign up for monthly newsletters that will show upcoming video lessons for my online school and also includes a free template and carving tips and tricks.news-sm

Carving in Savannah, GA

Mary May, Woodcarver - Sun, 01/25/2015 - 7:11pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

I love my job!

I get to work with amazing furniture makers, and at the same time, I get to experience lovely and historical parts of the country.

I have been working with Greg Guenther, a highly skilled furniture maker and restorer out of Savannah, GA for nearly 17 years now. He often calls me in to help him with the carved elements of period furniture projects he is either reproducing or restoring. Some of the jobs we have worked on are reproducing a Goddard-Townsend 6-shell secretary, several carved 4-post beds, a beautiful shell niche, numerous repairs on period pieces, and currently a 1830’s peer mirror reproduction. I have several photos of work we have done together in my gallery.

Here are some photos of the first corner I carved on Friday – it is a very 3-dimensional fluer de lis design. I only have 3 more to carve!

Drawing the design on the wood blank
Starting to shape the first corner.
Looking very happy starting to carve in Greg's Workshop.
Now I just need to make the other "c-scroll" match the first.
Nearly finished.
The finished corner!

Then I had the opportunity to walk around Savannah as a tourist and see some beautiful examples of acanthus leaves in architecture and wrought iron (I have acanthus leaves on the brain because of my book I’m writing). I hope to use several of these photos as reference and examples for the book.

Acanthus Leaf on the facade of a masonic building - probably casting in sandstone.
Another casting of a beautiful acanthus leaf.
Cast Iron acanthus leaf on a gate.

Once you start looking for acanthus leaves, you see them everywhere!

Also, please sign up for my acanthus book newsletterbook cover-190As I complete chapters, there will be free things to win!

 

Carving Cookie Molds with Roy Underhill!

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:40pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

This past weekend has been so much fun! Traditional Cookie Molds!

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Late last year, I received an e-mail from someone asking me if I have ever carved Springerle cookie molds. Not wanting to sound ignorant, I quickly googled this mysterious name to see what he was talking about, and a new world of carving opened up!

Then the following week Roy Underhill called and asked if I have ever carved traditional Springerle cookie molds. Was this fate? Coincidence? I think not! It was meant to be!

So Roy and I set up a 1-day cookie mold carving class (as opposed to moldy cooking carving class), and then scheduled filming another Woodwright’s Show episode on carving these same cookie molds.

These carved molds are traditional designs made in Germany, (called Springerle or spekulatius), Belgium (called Speculoos), and Holland (pronounced speculaas), meaning “mirror”. They are similar to shortbread, made with white flour, brown sugar (or honey), butter and spices. This dough is rolled or pressed into the oiled and flowered carved molds that are about 3/16″ to 1/4″ deep, leaving about 1/8″ dough left above the mold. After gently releasing the dough from the mold, the edge of the cookie is often cut out (sometimes special cookie cutter shapes are made that match the edge of the carved design to cleanly cut out the cookie to the correct shape).

The wooden molds are usually carved from very dense, hard, tight-grained wood such as pear or apple. Softer woods would be affected by oil or moist dough.

First – the cookie class. This class was open to all carvers – beginner and advanced, and it really was a great class. We dove right into carving a wind-mill cookie mold (didn’t even go over sharpening tools until towards the end of class because we wanted to get right into the fun part). As people were finishing up their wind-mill carvings towards the end of the day, Roy went around the room, oiled the molds, and pressed cookie dough into the molds (Roy’s wife, Jane, made the cookie dough). This is where we discovered that if there were any undercuts in the wooden mold, the dough would catch and not release easily. The malt shop next door was kind enough to bake the cookies and they were really tasty!

step 1 - Transfer design to wood. The outline only needs to be transferred because the details will be carved away.
step 2 - With a 6mm v-chisel, carve along the inside of the outer edge of the design.
step 3 - With a #7, 6mm and #7, 10mm, lower down the background where it fits.
step 4 - With gouges that fit along the outer edge, make a cut with a slight angle out along all outer edges. The angle will allow the dough to release easily.
step 5 - Clean up the background with various #3 gouges.
step 6 - Continue to level the background smooth. Make sure the thickness is the same along the whole shape.
step 7 - draw in brick details.
step 8 - With a 3mm v-chisel, carve along each of the brick lines. Make cross-grain cuts first.
step 9 - Continue to make v-cuts along the division lines between the bricks.
step 10 - Make small v-cuts along to create texture lines on the blades of the wind-mill.
step 11 - Press or roll cookie dough (I used Play-do) into the mold and pull away from the mold.
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Gingerbread and wind-mill cookie carving with finished and baked cookies.

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Getting ready for baking!

Cookies!

Cookies!

Sunday we filmed another episode of The Woodwright’s Shop – one of the longest running shows out there – 33 years! Roy is always fun to work with. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him over the past 5 or 6 years with 3 different shows, and teaching at his school in Pittsboro several times a year.

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The show should air in September or October. I’ve also filmed the process of carving several of these for my online school and that should be available within the next few months.

If you leave wood shavings in the mold, you add more fiber to the cookies! Then they’re healthier!

 

Carving Tool Box – by David Piazzo

Mary May, Woodcarver - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 7:05pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

David Piazzo is one of the active members at my online carving school. We frequently see comments from him on lessons at the school. He seems to be very engaged and enthusiastic. The following is from a recent email from David, describing how he safeguards his tools for convenient storage and travel. David agreed to this guest post to share the idea with other carvers. Thanks David and nice work!

Photo of David's toolbox

If you take a class from her, or join Mary May’s online school, one of many things you will learn is to love your tools.  (“You can never have enough”)  As my collection of quality tools has grown, I wanted a way to store and transport them safely, but still wanted to be able to get to all of them quickly when ready to carve.  With this system, they are all secure in the case, but when the top comes off and you pull out the top tray, set it on the bench in front of the bottom box… you have easy access to 40 full size tools.  Yes tool rolls are easy, but 12 or 18 tools is all you’re getting in, unless they become so big you worry about so many tools in a clump. Also if you have L series gouges or bent backs, they do not fit into nice straight spaces and they push and protrude into other spaces.

Mary has also taught how to get them SHARP so I wanted to make sure there were no metal hinges or clasps any place an accidental bump could dull a tool. So, the top has dowels along one side that fit into holes in the case and a couple rare earth magnets inlaid on the opposite side. They do not stick out and even then, NdFeB or Neodymium Iron Boron is softer than steel.

I started with 3/4 pine. But did not want the weight and bulk of 3/4 pine so I ripped it in half on the table saw to 5/16. I wanted the box small enough to carry under one arm so I worked out the dimensions by lining tools up on my bench. I dovetailed the 5/16 pine in the corners for strength and dadoed a groove around the inside for the bottom piece of 3/8 ply to hold down weight. I knew I would strengthen this bottom with the tool holder strips – see next picture.

First I made the main box with the bottom holder. After laying tools out on my bench I knew how far apart to space the half rounds for holding the handles in place. I made the frame for the top tray and strips for the bottom tool holders and clamped them together and drilled 1” holes for handles to fit into between the two strips. This gave me half rounds on both that lined up perfectly.

photo of bottom trayAfter drilling those holes, I added another row of tool holder holes above for the top tray and dadoed a groove for the top tray’s bottom.

Here you can see that the top tray is also dovetailed for strength out of 3/4 pine. I drilled holes through sides rather than making the case 1-1/2” wider. So all tools fit in same footprint. Also the bottom of the top tray, and the inside of the cover both have a 3/8” x 2” x 18” strip of temper foam glued along the center line. When the tray and the lid are in place, the foam holds down the tools to keep them from shifting or rattling.

Center bar on underside of lid  Center bar press down on the tools.
The center bar is floating. If I change tools it can move up or down to accommodate them, it moves easily. I also toss in a couple dessicant packs that come with electronics to control any moisture inside.

photo of both trays

Next, the lid and how to attach it. The lid is rabbeted like a drawer front would be. Then 5 dowels inset into the lid, and matching holes in the case side.

photo of holes and pins  photo of magnets in lid edge
Two rare earth magnets are inlaid into the lid and case side on the opposite side.

photo of sunburst carvingFinally, inspired by Mary’s fireplace Sunburst, I decided to carve that lesson into my lid. I used high gloss lacquer finish because sometimes when I sharpen, I have iron filings on my fingers and did not want that to dull the bright pine lid.  With this finish, it cleans up with windex and paper towels.  I turned a button for the center out of rosewood on the lathe.  I do love my tools and want to take the best care of them.  Now they are safely stored and easy to transport.  I have an old Coleman stove nylon carrying case they fit into perfectly for taking to a class or friends shop.

photo of case and lid together

More about my Acanthus Book

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 01/06/2015 - 3:58pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

book cover

The great thing about writing a book these days is that the technology available is amazing!

I make videos. A LOT of videos. With my online carving school, I add a video each week. And that’s adds up to a LOT (as of today, almost 4 terabytes stored)

So, since I have had over 2-1/2 years of experience in making video lessons, why not include this technology with my book?

To start with – the book. I plan on having this an interactive book (available both in hard cover and “e-book” form). This book will have step-by-step written instructions with photos that can be taken out to the workshop where you can refer to while you are carving. For the printed version, I would like to have the book spiral bound, so it can lay flat on the workbench – sort of like a cookbook that can open flat. With the “e-book”, I guess that’s not necessary :)

Next – videos! With each chapter lesson that goes through a project, I will have 2 videos – one on drawing that particular acanthus leaf, and one on carving the entire leaf. The set-up and style of the videos will be similar to the ones on my online school (I don’t know any other way!)

These videos will be available online for people who purchase the book. We have decided against DVDs, as that technology is SO yesterday. Seriously, by the time I finish this book late next year (oh, it is 2015? yikes – this year, I mean), the technology and options will be even more amazing.

Let’s see… what else? Printable templates for each project will also be available online.

Also (and this is SO cool!) my sister-in-law, Sara, is an awesome computer artist and she is going to work on making each acanthus leaf design a 3-d computer image that can be twisted and turned so that you will be able to view it from any angle. Not sure how this is going to work, but wouldn’t that be great?

So, with the help of the guys at Lost Art Press, and their expertise with publishing books and the technology that goes with it, this is going to be so much fun!

I’ll be starting a newsletter about my journey of writing this book sometime this month. Sign up and you’ll get VIP treatment (and maybe the occasional give-away)

book cover-190

Follow along as I write my Acanthus book.

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New Class Schedule for 2015

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 4:08pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

I have next year’s class schedule pretty much locked in. It’s going to be a very busy year.

Here is the link to the page on my website. Or you can choose the “classes” menu above. You would need to sign up and register at the particular school.

The class scheduled for February 4 – 8 at the Southwest School of Woodworking in Phoenix, AZ still has a few spots available. What better of a place for you northern folks to escape to in February!

I’m really excited about heading to Germany again this year to teach at the Dictum School in Munich. I went there last year for the first time and it was amazing!

January 16 Carving Springerle Cookie Molds
The Woodwright’s School with Roy Underhill
www.woodwrightschool.com
February 4-8 Introduction to Carving
Southwest School of Woodworking
www.swcfc.org/
March 7 & 8 Carving Basics
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking
www.schoolofwoodworking.com
March 21 Demonstration on Carving Charleston Furniture
Museum of Southern Decorative Arts
www.mesda.org/
April 7 – 11 Fundamentals of Woodcarving
Marc Adams School of Woodworking
Indianapolis, IN
www.marcadams.com
April 30 & May 1 Basic Relief Carving
Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking
www.kellymehler.com/
May 2 & 3 Intermediate Carving Techniques
Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking
www.kellymehler.com/
May 15 & 16 Demonstration on Carving
Handworks Woodworking Show
www,handworks.co/
June 1 – 5 The Joy of Woodcarving
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking
www.schoolofwoodworking.com
June 29 – July 3 Beginning Woodcarving
Center for Furniture Crafsmanship
www.woodschool.org
July 4 Demo and Presentation
Lie-Nielson Toolworks Open House, Warren, Maine
www.lie-nielsen.com/?pg=35
July 18 & 19 Advanced Relief Carving
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks
Warren, Maine
www.lie-nielsen.com
August 10 – 14 Classical Relief Carving
Marc Adams School of Woodworking
Indianapolis, IN
www.marcadams.com
September 4 – 6 Relief Carving of Floral Designs
Dictum Woodworking Workshops, Munich, Germany
www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de
September 8 – 10 Advanced Course in Relief Carving
Dictum Woodworking Workshops, Munich, Germany
www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de
October 3 & 4 Carving Ball and Claw Feet
Ben Hobbs Furniture
hobbsfurniture.com/

 

“The Kidney Shape” – Part 2

Mary May, Woodcarver - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 10:37am

Mary May - Woodcarver

 

Welcome back for the conclusion of our journey into the mystery of the “kidney shape” at the center of the Rococo style cartouche for a Philadelphia Highboy. Let’s explore a few theories

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Traditional cartouche (mahogany) carved by Mary May. ©2008 Cornerstone Creations, LLC

Theory 1:

The central, convex surface that is the trademark of a traditional cartouche in architecture, woodworking, painting, etc. would typically display a monogram, motto, date of establishment, or some sort of inscription on a scroll or tablet. When used to display a family’s coat of arms, the central display would naturally take the form of a shield. Do a search for “shield” on Google Images and you will see just how diverse the shapes are, but there is one in particular that might lead us to an answer for our puzzle.

TrojanShield

Example of a Trojan Shield, (12th – 14th centuries BC)

If we look at the quandary in a literal sense and assume our kidney shape is meant to resemble an actual shield, there are only a few examples of such shields in history. They reach back to the Greco-Roman Empire particularly a 300 year window between the 12th and 14th centuries BC and the ancient city of Troy. Whether oblong or round, the shields we are concerned with had “cut-outs,” two on opposite sides or only one along the edge. They allowed a soldier to reach beyond his shield with his sword while maintaining a protective stance.

Theory 2:

KidneyEtching

Medical diagram of a human kidney.

In literature, culture, and tradition from the ancient days of Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire the kidneys held a place of honor as one of the “noble entrails” or “vital parts” in the religious practice of animal sacrifice to the gods of those cultures. The fatter the sacrifice, the greater the honor, hence the importance of killing a fatted calf to feast a guest of honor. The kidneys and the fat surrounding them were considered particularly pure and sacred because they were the deepest, most difficult organs to reach as they were hidden beneath the other organs and a thick layer of fat. A sacrifice of this kind was the very best of what could be offered. In the Bible, their traditional significance in sacrifice made the kidneys symbolic of the “most hidden part of man,” a metaphor for conscience, the seat of morality, and in some translations, the “reins” by which a man is lead. Taking a figurative approach, perhaps the shape is meant to symbolize the best of the best as we will explore.

Here’s another little slice of history. In the mid to late 1700s the Rococo style reached the New World in what would become known as American Rococo style which blended the florid ornamentation of the Rococo with the practicality shallower pockets demanded. The significance of this fact is that it was the last style to be accomplished by colonial artisans before the Industrial Revolution replaced the majority of handmade furniture with pressed woods and machine fabricated pieces. New England was a hotspot for both movements, most notably, the port city of Philadelphia which had become the busiest, most populous city in British America by the 1750s and would serve as the birthplace of the American Declaration of Independence only 26 years later about halfway through the American Revolution. Needless to say, there was a lot going on around that time! The kidney shield was so popular in Philadelphia-style furniture that serious collectors know it as the “Philadelphia peanut” and debate the authenticity of original New America pieces.

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Philadelphia Highboy style cartouche (mahogany) carved by Mary May. ©2014 Cornerstone Creations, LLC

Theory 3:

My final theory is also the least exciting, and for that I will apologize. There may be no deep significance to puzzle. The shape itself may have been favored simply for its asymmetry and perhaps gained popularity in Philadelphia as an American Rococo fad.

Having developed Theory 2, I have to admit, the “ribbons” are starting to look a lot like the pictures I came across while researching actual kidneys, but I’m not cruel enough to take you there in this post. Maybe the eyes see what they want to see.

Whether the shape bares any connection to a cartouche’s use for a coat of arms on an actual shield, a symbolic boast for “the best of the best” during a time when early America was coming into her own, or was simply a shape favored for the asymmetry the Rococo style demands, the information was certainly fun to dig through. I hope you found this information as interesting as we did. If you’re interested in learning more, my favorite source for this article was the book “American Rococo, 1750–1775: Elegance in Ornament” by Morrison H. Heckscher and Leslie Greene Bowman (1992).

“The Kidney Shape” – Part 1

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 12/31/2014 - 4:07pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

Hello everyone. I’m Caleb May, Mary’s stepson. First, I want to thank my mum for giving me a chance to add my two cents on her blog and thank all of you for taking the time to keep up with her blog. She works hard and diligently, and I know how much she appreciates your support in a craft she truly loves.

20141112_180312

Philadelphia Highboy style cartouche carved my Mary May. ©2014 Cornerstone Creations, LLC

Second, Mary has a teaching style that is personal and real. She engages the audience with candor in a way you can sense. I want to assure you, it is not my goal to change this dynamic nor do I wish to promote myself as any kind of expert. Being new to the world of woodcarving myself, I simply had a few questions. What exactly is a “cartouche” (my dad, Stephen, says “bless you” every time we say the word) and what’s this “Philadelphia Highboy” I keep hearing about (I hear the term so often I think I’m starting to develop a twitch)? Seriously though, I enjoyed what I learned and upon sharing the information with Mary, we decided you might also enjoy the tidbits we gleaned.

Lastly, I am anxious to get your feedback so be free with your opinion and any knowledge you may have and maybe we can learn a little more together.

During the course of the “Carving a Cartouche” video lesson, I decided to satisfy my curiosity with a little research, during my designated breaks, of course (actually it took me the better part of a day). Mary agreed to let me exercise a little creative freedom at the beginning of Episode 1 and the result was a brief, slideshow that hit a few key points which came full circle in a way we found satisfying. But what of the mysterious “kidney shape” in the Rococo style ornament? Today, we’ll explore a little history, and tomorrow, I’ll lead you through a few of my theories regarding the origin of the central feature of the lesson which has garnered so much interest.

Fragonard-Swing

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767 (Rococo Period)

Wedged between the Baroque and Neoclassical periods, the Rococo period spanned over one-and-a-half centuries of art in all its forms (approximately 1600-1770). I have two words for you: fabric and motion. Somewhere between Baroque and Rococo, artists perfected the depiction of fabrics and their natural drapes, wrinkles, and folds. They flowed more naturally instead of appearing stiff and forced. The grand gestures, of the Baroque subjects became playful, natural motions you might see in real life. Not everyone has seen a rearing horse or angel on the wing, but most people can relate to a lady on a swing, her slipper thrown from her foot by inertia.

The Rococo was a creative dive into the deep end for music, painting, sculpture, woodworking, architecture, design, and even theatre. As with most new styles of art, the Rococo was considered controversial and extreme; a mockery of the current Baroque. In the picture above, a woman of her time would be scandalized for baring her ankle, let alone her leg, and certainly to a man on the ground who stares so openly in the sight of witnesses. The style favored asymmetry over rigid structure, the flowing whimsy and meandering detail of nature over the broad, no-nonsense angles of architecture. Expansive natural scenery invaded the epic, stand-alone figures mounting clouds in Baroque sky-scapes. The new style exaggerated Baroque forms which, are noted to this day for the indisputable use of dramatic gesture and palpable tension. The Rococo style pressed beyond the boundaries of an already grand style to become something wittier, more ornate, playful, and arguably impractical. It grew in popularity as the avant-garde style of its time.

“So… About that kidney shape.” We’ll get there, I promise. I have three theories. Tune in tomorrow for our conclusion.

- Caleb May

New Help for my Online School

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 12/30/2014 - 8:53pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

For the past 2-1/2 years, there have basically been two people involved in making my online school happen.

maryfacepicround

Me (Mary May) – what I do:

  • Filming while I carve (cameras on a tri-pod, me rambling on as I carve)
  • Editing video
  • Adding new videos to the site weekly
  • Writing and sending monthly newsletters
  • Writing and sending weekly emails announcing new lessons added
  • Answering any questions regarding the content of the videos
  • Posting any Facebook, Twitter and Blog posts

bob-round-112

Bob Easton – what he does:

  • The ultra tech brains behind making all the web sites work
  • Setting up all web pages and keeping everything up to date
  • Answering and sorting out any technical questions from students
  • Fixing any technical issues that come up
  • Sorting me out when I don’t have a clue how to figure out something on the site (this happens often)
  • In other words, the online school would not be, without Bob
  • If you are interested in seeing all the aspects and details of how he set up my online school, he has started a great blog walking you through this journey.

And now we have a new addition to our happy little online family.

calebfaceround

Caleb May, my son:

Caleb started working with me several months back. He is a Marine Corps veteran and was not satisfied with his job as a federal security officer the past 8 years. He needed a chance to exercise his creative skills and computer knowledge with greater potential and the timing worked out perfectly for him to take on some of the roles that were becoming increasingly difficult for me to juggle. My work days had become quite long – often times starting at 7:00 am and going until midnight. With that kind of stress, it was only a matter of time before the quality and integrity of the lessons would begin to diminish.

So if you have watched recent video lessons, you have probably noticed various creative changes, as Caleb has introduced clever graphics and transitions, interesting historical information, and overall improved look and consistency of the lessons. He is also doing the complete editing of every lesson, transitioning between camera views, and trying to figure out what the %$#@ tool I’m using. Patience, my son…

He is also attempting to get me out of the “social misfit” category and help my Facebook presence become a little more “socially acceptable”. That’ll be a tough one.

Caleb will also be an occasional “guest blogger”, as he also has a gift for writing. He is currently working on a post for my blog which will explore the meaning behind that asymmetrical kidney or peanut shape in the center of the cartouche. I can’t take the suspense! He’s only just getting on his feet with his own blog, so if you like his writing style, please consider following him.

I look at all that will be happening this next year – writing a book on Carving the Acanthus Leaf, teaching at least once a month somewhere (sometimes twice a month), some great commissioned pieces coming up (a Charleston Rice bed – that will definitely have a video lesson with it), and continuing to add a video lesson every week to my online school. I think this is perfect timing to bring in some help so I don’t burn myself out.

I want to say a big “Thank You” to all of you who have followed my blog, are members of my online school, or have been students in classes I have taught. There wouldn’t be much of this without you.

My New Year’s resolution, with the help of Bob and Caleb (and my very patient husband, Stephen), I plan to stay sane and happy next year…

New Help for my Online School

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 12/30/2014 - 2:24pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

For the past 2-1/2 years, there have basically been two people involved in making my online school happen.

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Me (Mary May) – what I do:

– Filming while I carve (cameras on a tri-pod, me rambling on as I carve)
– Editing video
– Adding new videos to the site weekly
– Writing and sending monthly newsletters
– Writing and sending weekly emails announcing new lessons added
– Answering any questions regarding the content of the videos
– Posting any Facebook, Twitter and Blog posts

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Bob Easton – what he does:

– The ultra tech brains behind making all the web sites work
– Setting up all web pages and keeping everything up to date
– Answering and sorting out any technical questions from students
– Fixing any technical issues that come up
– Sorting me out when I don’t have a clue how to figure out something on the site (this happens often)
– In other words, the online school would not be, without Bob
– If you are interested in seeing all the aspects and details of how he set up my online school, he has started a great blog walking you through this journey.

And now we have a new addition to our happy little online family.

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Caleb May, my son:

Caleb started working with me several months back. He is a Marine Corps veteran and was not satisfied with his job as a federal security officer the past 8 years. He needed a chance to exercise his creative skills and computer knowledge with greater potential and the timing worked out perfectly for him to take on some of the roles that were becoming increasingly difficult for me to juggle. My work days had become quite long – often times starting at 7:00 am and going until midnight. With that kind of stress, it was only a matter of time before the quality and integrity of the lessons would begin to diminish.

So if you have watched recent video lessons, you have probably noticed various creative changes, as Caleb has introduced clever graphics and transitions, interesting historical information, and overall improved look and consistency of the lessons. He is also doing the complete editing of every lesson, transitioning between camera views, and trying to figure out what the %$#@ tool I’m using. Patience, my son…

He is also attempting to get me out of the “social misfit” category and help my Facebook presence become a little more “socially acceptable”. That’ll be a tough one.

Caleb will also be an occasional “guest blogger”, as he also has a gift for writing. He is currently working on a post for my blog which will explore the meaning behind that asymmetrical kidney or peanut shape in the center of the cartouche. I can’t take the suspense! He’s only just getting on his feet with his own blog, so if you like his writing style, please consider following him.

I look at all that will be happening this next year – writing a book on Carving the Acanthus Leaf, teaching at least once a month somewhere (sometimes twice a month), some great commissioned pieces coming up (a Charleston Rice bed – that will definitely have a video lesson with it), and continuing to add a video lesson every week to my online school. I think this is perfect timing to bring in some help so I don’t burn myself out.

I want to say a big “Thank You” to all of you who have followed my blog, are members of my online school, or have been students in classes I have taught. There wouldn’t be much of this without you.

My New Year’s resolution, with the help of Bob and Caleb (and my very patient husband, Stephen), I plan to stay sane and happy next year…

In Memoriam – Dilek Barlas

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 12/29/2014 - 9:25am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Sad news about a dear friend and fellow woodcarver – he will be missed.
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Dilek Barlas, a GNHW member who was very active in the Period Furniture sub-group, died Christmas Eve as a result of a heart attack. He was 65.

    Dilek spent his work-days as an engineer and semiconductor entrepreneur, but his passion off hours was woodworking. He did a program at North Bennett St. School, and took multiple courses with Phil Lowe, Al Breed and Mary May. He was particularly interested in carving.

    His home was full of beautiful, hand-made items including a Queen-Anne dining set with chairs, period sideboards, a reproduction Townsend Document Chest made in conjunction with the Period Furniture Group’s program at Al Breed’s shop, and many other items.

    Guild members will remember him as someone who was always friendly and always willing to share his ample woodworking expertise. Others will remember the difficulty they had mastering the pronunciation of his name.

    Dilek was a native of Istanbul, Turkey. He came to the U.S. to attend Bates College. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1973. In 1977, he received a PhD in Physics from Brandeis University.

    A naturalized U.S. citizen, Dilek worked as a physicist at Raytheon Research Division and MIT Lincoln Laboratory and held a number of top engineering positions with Adams-Russell, M/A-Com, ST Microsonics, and TriQuint Semiconductor, where he organized and headed the Boston Design Center.

    Then he served as an international consultant and held positions as vice-president and chief technology officer with a variety of start-up companies. Most recently, he was VP of Engineering at Eta Devices, Cambridge.

    He is survived by his son, Nuri, who teaches and coaches in Bedford, MA. His mother, Melahat, and sister, Mine, and her family in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Funeral arrangements are pending, information will be available at the Bedford Funeral Home’s website: http://www.bedfordfuneralhome.com/fh/home/home.cfm?&fh_id=10250.

I’m writing my first book!

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 12/22/2014 - 8:58am

Mary May - Woodcarver

The finished acanthus leaf.

Last year, during the Lie-Nielsen open house in Warren, Maine, I sat and talked with John Hoffman of Lost Art Press – over a few beers. In our conversation I mentioned to him that one day I would like to write a book on woodcarving. I had thrown this idea around with several people over the previous few months, but never really came to any real solid decision. Maybe it was the beer – maybe it was the beautiful Maine climate – maybe it was John’s profound logic about what makes books successful…

acanthus leaf duplicate

This is the start of my carving of the acanthus leaf

The conversation with John went something like this:

John: What would you like to write about?
Me: Woodcarving
John: Yeah, but narrow it down.
Me: I don’t know. There are a lot of beginning carving books out there. I would like to do something more unique and special.
John: Think about that one topic that you are really interested in, the topic that you know a lot about, and the topic where people can sense and see the enthusiasm and love for what you are doing.
Me: Mmmmm… (that’s me thinking)
John: Find that topic, go slightly off the reservation with that topic, and then come back – slightly. (I loved this advice)
Me: Hmmmm… (that’s me thinking some more)
John: Whatever the topic, it needs to be something YOU are definitely interested in and passionate about. Readers will respond to writing that is real. If you’re bored writing it, the readers will be bored reading it.
Me: Yeah… (my mind swimming with ideas)

The conversation ended with my mind considering all the possibilities – a book on basic carving techniques (many good books already out there on this), period furniture carving (already several high quality books out there). But wait… a design I LOVE to carve, I have studied many of them, I have carved many of them, and the varieties of styles are endless, and it is an absolutely beautiful design – the ACANTHUS LEAF!

Basic acanthus leaf.

Basic acanthus leaf.

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Hand-carved Capital for Picture Frame

The possibilities truly are endless. As I prepare the layout of the book, I already have enough different topics and designs to fill a second volume (but I must finish the first one :)

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At first, I thought it might be too narrow of a topic, maybe too obscure – who really cares about acanthus leaves – really? And who even knows what an acanthus leaf is?

Well, my conclusion was this – it is such a historically significant design – both in architecture and furniture. I really felt an obligation to share the knowledge that I have learned as a traditional woodcarver (and stone carver) to keep this wonderfully traditional design alive.

As I started to imagine the layout of the book, the different techniques I would show, and the vast variety of styles of acanthus leaves, the possibilities seemed almost endless – and yes! I started to get really excited about writing this book!

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Real acanthus plant

Real acanthus plant

So I am pleased to say I will be working with Christopher Schwarz and John Hoffman of Lost Art Press to publish my first book by fall/winter of 2015. They will be walking me through this adventure (holding my hand?).

When I fall asleep at night I have visions of acanthus leaves dancing in my head!

I’ll be sending periodic email updates about the book.
Follow along… Join the list!

 

More details later…

Mepkin Abbey Christmas Creche

Mary May, Woodcarver - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:04am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to carve a half-size creche scene for Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, SC

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Finished face of Jesus.

Finished face of Jesus.

It was carved in Paulownia wood – a very lightweight, but strong wood.

Mepkin Abbey has a yearly Creche festival where they collect 40+ Creche scenes from around the world – mostly hand made. If you ever have an opportunity to see the festival, it is really quite beautiful.

The carving was a real challenge because I only had about a month to complete all 3 figures. Grinders removed most of it. And then I used an electric carver to get closer to the final shape. Then I hand-carved the final details. I really enjoyed the challenge of the whole project. Since I do not carve figures much, that added to the adventure.

The Log.

The Log.

More carving face.

More carving face.

Here is a link to a recent newspaper article.

Last day for Christmas Sale

Mary May, Woodcarver - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:58am

Mary May - Woodcarver

christmas

Joy to the World… The Lord has come…

Over this past weekend Stephen and I put up our Christmas tree – working on getting our minds and hearts into this wonderful season. We will be hosting between 25 and 30 people for Christmas dinner, and were told (in no uncertain terms) that we had better decorate for Christmas. Not to put any pressure on us…

So here is a photo of our tree. We decided to decorate with a “theme” this year (blue and silver). We have never done that before (we are feeling quite trendy). Usually we take out many boxes of old Christmas decorations, attempt to use the garland that continues to lose it’s tinsel more and more each year, and just pack the tree with as many lights and ornaments as possible. We go through the old lights and see which have survived from the previous year.

Well, this year we started from scratch AND we actually got a real tree this year (it’s been at least 20 years).

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Just a reminder…

Today is the last day you can get the Christmas discounts.

Monthly membership – $8.99/month instead of $9.99/month (recurring payment by Paypal or credit card)

Yearly membership – $99.99/year instead of $109.99/year (one time payment by Paypal, credit card or check)

10% off individual downloadable lessons (prices vary, depending on length of lesson – and you don’t have to be a member of the school)

10% off all DVDs and resin castings.

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

New Video on Carving a Christmas Candle

Mary May, Woodcarver - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 8:15am

Mary May - Woodcarver

What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to carve a Christmas Tree Ornament! I have a new video lesson on youtube – http://youtu.be/VE7c6B9wraA

This lesson is on carving a wonderful little Christmas candle that you can hang on your tree, give as a gift, or make several to string along your tree. It is carved in mahogany attached to a backer board as I carve, so it is one-sided. I drilled a hole in the side of the flame so I could hang it on my tree (which still needs to be put up). Here is a template – Christmas-Candle-template.

Merry Christmas and Happy Carving! I hope this helps bring a little of that Christmas cheer early.

 

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Cartouche for a Philadelphia Highboy

Mary May, Woodcarver - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 5:02am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Philadelphia Highboy that I carved details for 8 years ago.

Philadelphia Highboy that I carved details for 8 years ago.

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Several weeks ago I carved a cartouche for my Philadelphia Highboy project in mahogany. What a fun piece to carve! So much going on in such a small pediment.

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This is just one of many styles of this ornament that is seen on the top, center pediment of a Philadelphia Highboy.

I carved a second cartouche and filmed the process for my online school. It will also be available for individual purchase. I will start publishing the 5 episodes December 17 (I will be adding one per week through January 14).

Now I need to carve 2 more in walnut!

 

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by Dr. Radut