The carving is going to plan and seems to be coming on nicely. The sunburst is nearly completed and has been an interesting challenge to do. I try to cut each stage as cleanly as possible,aiming to leave a crisp finish that does not need hours of work with scrapers and sand paper.
The figures are all set in and I am about to block out the buildings. I will mark out all the detail then settle down to the fiddly bits. I tend to do faces and hands all together as I need to be in the right frame of mind and feeling brave!
The flat surfaces gradually disappear as I carve deeper into the wood and commit to the details. I have to concentrate very hard as it would be very easy to make mistakes! At this stage the smaller tools come into use and I use a wide variety of different shaped blades for the intricate cuts. It takes many hours each day and my hands are starting to feel like leather!
I listen to the radio while I work and I keep hearing reports on the news about various remembrance projects around the country. It makes me realise that we are part of something big and important , this encourages me in my carving.
I have almost put everything in place at the right level. The next step will be to transfer the drawing to the surface of the wood and begin working on the details. I will need to make sure all my tools are extremely sharp!
The big drawing looks more like a collage at this stage as I tend to cut bits out and try out new positions then stick them back on again. When I am happy with how it looks I use parts of the drawing as templates to transfer the outlines onto the surface of the wood. Then, at long last,it is time to get out the chisels and gouges and set to work on the carving. I use just the same sort of tools that we used for making the woodcuts in school. I just use the bigger sizes for the early stages of waste removal as I set each element into the wood. I gradually work out the various levels of the design and cut deeper into the boards.
The next stage was to complete the design drawing and have it approved by Laura. I sent her quite a few photographs and she sent back suggestions for improvements, she even came all the way to my home in the Isle of Wight to see the big drawing!! Happily we were able to agree on the changes and I was given the go ahead to start the carving.
Working on a collaborative project takes patience and an ability to step back and consider the bigger picture. Sometimes this is easier said than done and I have to remind myself that the project has clear objectives and involves a lot of individuals.
I feel very privileged to be involved with Homecoming. The children have shown considerable commitment and imagination with their ideas, I only hope that I can do them justice!
My workshop is full of wood and the floor is covered in shavings ! I chose to use Tulip wood, also called White Poplar. It is a light coloured hardwood with a fine grain and an even texture that carves very nicely. It came from a sawmill in Midhurst, West Sussex where it was cut into boards and dried in a kiln to make it suitable for internal use.
I planed the edges straight and glued the planks together to make up a large panel. I had to use some huge clamps to hold them together while the adhesive dried. The picture above shows the first boards being joined. We call this laminating.