Planning a Carving by John Adamson

When John worked at B.T. they used the catchphrase: Planning is cheap, Correction time is expensive. A recent client of his reminded him of The 5 Ps: Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance.   Planning is important and this particularly applies to us, as we carve wood, we cannot put back what we have cut off.

Books and magazines do the design planning for us  but they don’t tell us how to plan our own designs. If we want to carve a life like animal from a photograph   John demonstrated this with a photograph of a table with a animal face stuck to it,



A table/animal has 4 equal sized legs, but in the photograph all the legs are different sizes.     These differences are due to perspective, and he had not found a way to unpick the problem  perspective.   We must be aware of this and find other more accurate sources.  Plastic models can help, and he had found that those produced by  Schleich are anatomically accurate but expensive.

John suggests:

1) Choose the carving you want to do.

2) Get photos of top side and front views if possible, If necessary go to shops, natural history museums, etc. to take photos.

3) Think size and choose the wood with extra wood for clamping.

John recommends using plasticine.  A complete but not necessarily an accurate model may be helpful to start with, but he suggests that if you are having a problem with the head or the feet then just make a plasticine model of that part the carving, carve the plasticine to see how the problem can be fixed.

John reminded us to think about where the carving will be exhibited. e.g., a relief carving needs to consider whether it will be high or low and where the light hits it to make shadows. He demonstrated this with Melanie’s latest carving. Another example would be a statue very high up in a cathedral – it would have a big head and chest and smaller legs to make it look normal to the viewer.

The meeting closed with members sharing their problems and views. Some members shared the pleasure of carving freely and being happy with their results. John, whose  talk was about planning, reminded us that as a species we are not natural planners, we are more “the get up and do it” type of people. We can carve from  the heart and complete a carving. But if we are not happy when the carving is completed we may need help for the next time.. We can  look at other models, real animals and drawings in books with zoological pictures of animals’ skeletons which would help with the structure and movement of the animal.

Report by Gillian Smith.