Boat shops, and woodworking shops in general, are often full of patterns. You frequently build variations on similar forms. It’s easier to have templates available for these frequent repeats than starting over fresh every time. A carver’s shop is no different. I have a couple of gallery walls filled with examples I’ve carved over the past thirty or so years and numerous patterns for items I need regularly. The carvings themselves can be assemblages of pieces. The great carver Grinnling Gibbons created his massive works through assemblage, and where relevant, I do too.
The photo shows a maquette of an eagle with an applied banner. The design I based this on was a decoration on the paddle box of a very elegant 19th-century paddle steamer.
Several years ago, I carved this eagle from scrap wood. It has three pieces: body plan, head, and the attached banner. Could this be done in one piece? Yes, but it’s more straightforward and sturdy in three. A small model like this can be used with a pair of proportional dividers and paper patterns to get you pretty much any size eagle you need.
The second photo shows the small eagle with a duplicate I am working on for a house sign. Included are the patterns and prep work on the banner that has to lay across the caved eagle’s body. Patterns are lovely for layout, but a model is better for trying to get the flow of contours for things like banners or drapery.
The term bricolage is a French loan word for creating work through the assembly of various parts. While working on boat and ship portraits, I am a bricoleur combining model parts with individually crafted wooden components, paper, plastic, or metal. But even while crafting this sign, the technique creeps in.
Items like models, patterns and proportional dividers are as important to your carving as sharp gouges and knives. They form part of a shop production culture that continues to flourish not because it’s some historic affectation, but because it simply works.
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