In the fall of 2004 I enrolled in woodcarving studying under the man of many talents Jon Alley. This would be my final class studying fine woodworking.
I didn't realize at the time that this class would open the door to what would become my calling and passion in life.
Previous to this class I did enjoy the act of shaping wood whether it was guitars or various projects. Jon would bring in examples of his work and I was always blown away and wanted to become as good as he was.
During this semester I did more experimenting versus making complete projects. I do not have any works left from this time period as I did a big cleanup of my shop a few years back and felt it was best to offer them up to the trash gods instead of occupying space.
This was the only woodworking class that I didn't get an A in. I got a C and it bothered me, not that I didn't deserve it but my goals were always to do A level work.
Although we learned to carve placing our work on benches I found it to be most comfortable for me to carve on my lap. I feel it gives me the advantages of being very close to my work, be able to quickly reposition the work, create angles that a more advantageous to carve at. (and thankfully I've only had one minor accident carving on my lap when the gouge slipped driving it straight into my leg )
One of the other benefits that emerged from not having to use a workbench was the ability to carve wherever and four years later began the time period when I began to fully focus on carving and creating outdoors around Philadelphia.
I love the energy of being outdoors, the fresh air as well as the ability to see flaws that need to be worked on that may not be caught with indoor lighting.
I really loved the simplicity of wood carving : hand tools + wood + artist. (+good music)
Woodcarving is a craft that occupies most of the senses at once. The obvious being sight, the smell of the wood as it's being paired away, Hearing the percussive chisel strikes from the mallet to slick almost paper tearing sounds of more delicate glides across the wood. The touch and feel as a piece progresses as well the sense of proprioception.
Proprioception is the brain understanding where your body is in space. I would imagine that through playing guitar for most of my life and spending thousands of hours carving I have developed a noticeable ability to catch objects when they fall for instance. Almost like there is an added half second in a second that I can relax and have confidence in knowing I don't have to panic if something falling or really even look. The development of this sense is more aparent in striking the gouge with a mallet and knowing where the tool will be without looking.
I wanted to be a drummer at first growing up but when I went to the music store the drum set was $400 and guitar was $99 so it was an easy decision. Carving on my lap makes me feel very close to how a drummer is set up.
I have been also very lucky that my dear friend/brother Brian has been working as a guitar tech for Lukas Nelson for over 15 years. In 2010 Lukas was opening up for BB King at the Keswick Theatre outside of Philadelphia.
I was hanging out for BB King's soundcheck which basically consisted of the great drummer Tony Coleman going from instrument to instrument to get the right sound levels for the concert. He sat down his main instrument of the drums close to where I was standing and said to me one of the most important things about drumming was the economy of motion, that he is not reaching but everything is right infront of him.
I took this advice to my craft of carving . When I carve my tools are placed to my left which is the hand they are generally held in therefor avoiding having to reach across my body.
To celebrate my 10th anniversary in woodworking in 2011 I decided to treat myself to $1000 in new carving tools while most importantly choosing to have them lasered engraved with some quotes by some of my favorites including the wrestler Ric Flair and boxer Mike Tyson to give them extra magic.
I also began to paint the main gouges I use in various colors so that when I carve I'm not searching and fumbling around . I know that pink is my small straight or lime green is my #5 fishtail etc.so everything flows.
REFLECTIONS ON WOODCARVING
Woodcarving has created a special place for me to exist in. A place of joy, peace, deep thought, spirituality. It will challenge me to the day I die to continue to get better. My carvings are songs and expressions of where I am in life and where I dream to be.
Woodcarving is an escape in that no matter how tough of a situation is in my life the second I start carving my focus is shifted away to the creative space where I can only concentrate on what I am working on.
My art represents my life story, hopes, thoughts, dreams and the pursuance of greatness in my craft and I'm thankful to have found woodcarving as the vehicle of my expression.