"What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what is behind a windowpane."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wormy Chestnut Carvings!

If you've been reading my posts, you know the anxiety I've had trying to carve something out of "Wormy Chestnut". I'm happy to say, both carvings are done!

Because of the brittleness of this wood, and the fact it was covered in worm holes, I knew I had to carve something simple. I thought evoking a primitive look would capture the integrity of the wood. What better way to do this then by carving Halloween figures?

The ghost and Jack O'Lantern stand approximately seven inches tall and one inch thick.

Because the carvings had to be kept simple, I wanted more details in the painting. Instead of a boring white ghost, I painted him in a crazy quilt using different shades of white and gray. The Jack O'Lantern embedded within him was a "happy mistake". While carving a fold in the ghost's body, the wood underneath just crumbled, forming an oblong shape. At first, I thought it was completely ruined, but then I noticed that it resembled a pumpkin. Bingo! Carving out more detail gave me the look I wanted.

I was happy with the overall result, but felt my new little friend still needed something. Rummaging through my stash of goodies, I was able to create his Victorian Cone. It's made from black scrap paper and Halloween ribbon. The picture of the little witch holding the black cat and pumpkin is from an antique Halloween postcard. The cone is filled with the most scrumptious black and orange "Fun Fur." I just love the affect it gives the cone. Nestled inside the cone is a hand-made paper clay pumpkin.

Here's a close-up of the top of the Jack O'Lantern. Using the same "Fun Fur" as an accent, I was able to give this carving more texture and dimension. I used a branch from our backyard as the stem and twisted rusted wire to emulate vines.

This piece was actually much more difficult to carve than the ghost. It had many more worm holes in it, making it extremely dry and brittle. Very gingerly, I carved out a mouth, nose, and one eye. Then when carving the final eye, the wood under my knife gave way and crumbled into dust. Unfortunately, when this happened the wood separating the eye and mouth also fell apart, connecting the eye with the mouth. There was NO saving it. Luckily, I still had room at the top to carve tiny eyes and a nose. From there, I carved a very long mouth. I don't know if I like it better this way, but it definitely gives him more personality!

Although I didn't like working with such vulnerable wood, It definitely was a great learning experience. As a self-taught carver, I really had to think outside of the box. It stretched my imagination and forced me to find a solution. For those reasons, ironically, this was one of my favorite carving experiences.


  1. i LOVE the pumpkin, especially his big ol' mouth!

  2. Considering that big ol' mouth was created from a big ol' mistake, I'll give you a big ol' thanks!