A Flashback Friday Presentation
New Patterns and Old
I carved intermittently from the 1960s through the mid-seventies. Going to graduate school ended most carving activities, and I didn’t pick it up again until 1992.
I returned to carving by way of small boat shops. My mentors were all boatbuilders. Consequently, my shop looks more like a boat shop than an artist’s studio. In a traditional boat shop, the rafters are hung with patterns of all sorts. Any given model may have additional marks, curves, and notes denoting the changes needed to add, subtract, or modify the design. This way, you easily alter a boat; or a carving. As this was the setting where I came to the trade as a real professional, I followed the model.
My tradition of nautical carving is, in a sense, a broken tradition. I had no access to old carvers to teach me the trade. My mentors in carving had no interest in eagles, transom banners, and the like. So, I was never really sure what my antecedents in the trade would have made of my shop or my approach.
I “thought” I knew what a ship’s carver’s shop would have looked like in the 19th century, similar to the boat shops I was familiar with, I was certain.
This made sense because the carver and shipbuilder worked closely together and carefully coordinated efforts to achieve the desired effects on the ship. Also, they frequently worked out of the same shops. But I wasn’t certain.
Recreations of such shops left me unconvinced. Then one Sunday returning from WoodenBoat, in Maine, it all changed. I had made a fast passage from Brooklin to Bath and had time to visit the Maritime Museum in Bath before it closed. Wandering around and snapping photos of carvings, I found an exhibit room tricked out as a carver’s shop. Leaning against the wall was a life-size pattern for a figurehead. Having seen many figures carved similarly to this pattern, my mind’s eye quickly thought of possible variations with this one pattern.
I was reassured. I went home and started a series of eagles originating from the same pattern, all very different—sort of a reverse E Pluribus Unum. Here are some shots from that series:
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