Mostly I do not take chances with safety while carving, so the gouge took off a hunk of the eyeball on the eagle I was carving rather than a hunk of hand. I could have let out a bloodcurdling yell as the tool slipped. But I was doing a demonstration, so I took a deep breath, turned to the observers, and calmly said, ” So what do you do when an accident happens, and you have to fix it. Say that starting over is not an option?” Holding up the severed piece of wood, I showed it around as several viewers opined how they would fix the accident. It was a dirty trick, but it allowed me to think about how I intended to correct my error.

You hope this sort of thing never happens, at a demonstration or anytime on an important commission. But, it always seems to happen when you are tired, emotionally bothered, or otherwise distracted. In this case, I fixed the error with a bit of clever recarving that looked better than the original. But I also ran through the ever-faithful methods of glues, screws, and pins.
Go to a museum look carefully at work on display. Look long enough and carefully, and you will see where the craftsman corrected, fixed, or concealed something that hadn’t ought to happen. That skill is part of what makes a capable craftsperson.

3 Replies to “Skillful”

  1. I must say that’s a stunning eagle carving.

    We all have little accidents like you described. As a chef, you learn it’s easy to overdo a flavour and then with a little skill you can add something else to correct the taste. It’s then the amateur becomes the master.

    Don’t you love it when an accident makes the work better than intended too?

    1. There was story I heard once about the crackle glaze on Ming pottery, The master looks askance at the vase when it came out of the kiln, and said ” it’s a mistake…but what a mistake!” Of course it takes a master to realize that it’s improved, and it takes a master to fix something when it’s off.

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