These days a maritime carver is lucky to get a quarter board, transom banner, or an occasional billet head for a commission. But, of course, eagles have uses other than on boats, so you can still get orders for them. But vinyl is king for boat bling, and I no longer try to compete for the work remaining. So let the vinyl cutters have the job of festooning that Chlorox bottle of a power boat – the Party Boy III. But how did this unfortunate thing come about? Once upon a time, ships had elaborately carved quarter galleries, fancy transoms, and much more. So even a lowly fishing boat might have a tiny bit of bling.
At some point in the nineteenth century, the bean counters decided to begrudge us poor woodcarvers our just and due income. Maintaining and carving all the carved knick nacks we liked to paste all over ships was expensive. Although I’m sure many a carver took up quill pen to complain about the plain nature of the vessels, the accountants had their way.
Pretty soon, even the figurehead was reduced to a mere bust, then a billet head, and ultimately to nothing. It got so bad that sailors on some ships refused to sail without a figurehead and may have resorted to surreptitiously adding one without the shipowner’s knowledge.
You can imagine the back in forth at the bar: “that tub you sail on is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Not even a little tiny bust on the bow!” Being ashamed, the other sailor tries bluffing and replies, “yeah, but our ship’s cat can beat your ship’s cat!”
Some of my brethren dream of the day boat and ship owners will realize the folly of their ways and turn away from the silliness of vinyl lettering. A new day of wooden carved adornments will dawn, offering enormous employment for carvers. Nope, never. I’ve moved on to carvng portraits of shops and boats, doing an assortment of other stuff, and discovering that there is life beyond hanging off ladders measuring dimensions, attaching boards, or dealing with petulant clients who want unobtainable wood species for interior carving.
I’m waiting instead for digital computer graphics to light up boats with vulgar displays of color and images. Then I’ll have my revenge on the soul-less vinyl cutters and the glitzy taped-on trash! They can belly up to the bar with the out-of-work carvers and moan about the world that was. For them, I depart, leaving this quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: “Glory is fleeting. But obscurity is forever.”