Are You Cut Out for Woodcarving?

My Upcoming Class at the Metuchen Senior Center: May 7

The Metuchen Arts Council (which you can find on Facebook) has begun a series of art classes called the Metuchen Arts Exchange, in conjunction with the Westerhoff School and the Senior Center, and I’ll teach an introductory class on woodcarving. I’m pretty sure that I suggested the title of this blog as the title of the class, but they weren’t buying it. The class is an overview of knife safety, basic cuts, how grain works, and the differences between woods. Participants get to take home a wall-mountable key holder, which is useful and thus partially justifies the purchase of dangerous art supplies.

Imagine this with cup hooks in each little hole. Imagine my coffee table without the cat hair and dust. Thank you. Once again, I’ve photographed a workpiece on a table made of THE SAME WOOD! And I didn’t even plan that.

I’ll bring band-aids.

The hardest thing for people learning to carve is how much work it is for their hands. Most of us don’t do manual labor that requires small-motor strength. But if you like the hobby, the strength comes with time. And if you don’t like it after this class, you can learn that for $25 and quit while you’re ahead. That’s why the class is for adults; it’s not that kids are too careless to use knives, it’s just that they don’t have the size and strength they will have later.

The MAX classes are varied; they include everything except classic 2-D art or traditional music lessons. The goal here is to offer experiences in less-known arts. Right now, the Metuchen Arts Council website is down, but once it’s back I’ll post the link. Check them out on Facebook to see what’s up.

Timing is Everything

I was working on two pieces, from chunks of the same tree, when I found out that there will be an exhibit in which I can enter them. No guarantee that my work will be accepted, but I like the show’s concept either way. South Avenue Arts of Garwood ( (and that’s GarWOOD, not Garfield; I know this is confusing) has called for works about animals, and the show will benefit a shelter or animal welfare group. How perfect is that for a person who happened to be carving these:

Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before? Like, maybe on a curb?

Okay, the pieces in question do not represent normal shelter pets. But the wood wasn’t kitten-shaped. It’s salvage from a huge Halisia montecola that was taken down in Mount Holly. Halisia montecola is a variant of Halisia virginiana; some say they’re the same thing, but montecola grows about 60 feet tall, not 20, and I’d agree that it’s a significant difference. They grow along the warmer Appalachians, but they can live here as specimens. This one would have been planted around 1860.

The chunks were pretty random, cut with a chain saw and left behind. The wood is not very hard, but it’s stringy and fibrous, and this tree was spalted (aka half rotten) so it doesn’t offer a fine finish but I think they will work out well, with its marbled pattern. Hey… the table in the picture is from the same tree!

I’m also interested in a call for public art, and I’ve mocked something up:

My homage to Space Invaders… no, not really.

I’ll be busy with these through March. But you should be hearing from me before then about my carving class in Metuchen in May!