Wood might not be the first material you think of when we say art. It’s heavy, difficult to manipulate and often filled with imperfections. Despite this, its popularity is on the rise and more people than ever are signing up to learn all about wood carving – from budding artists and craft fanatics, to people who have a spare weekend and just want a nice figure for the patio.
Using a mix of creativity and technical know-how, wood carving is an art rooted in the practical considerations of carpentry but with the artistic flourish of sculpture. It’s been around since the Middle Ages and wooden decorations, indoor and outdoor, are still around today.
John Hollerbach teaches woodcarving courses at The Goodlife Centre. John is a professional restorer by trade and with a background that includes qualifications in restoration and conservation as well as teaching, we thought he sounded like a great person to tell us all about wood carving…
What’s the first thing you teach people who want to know all about woodcarving?
Identifying woods, tools and practising techniques.
And after that?
Students will learn how to carve wood. The ‘Woodcarving in the Round’ is a sculptural course which covers the techniques, tools and woods required to plan, carve and indeed finish a 3D carved wood sculpture. Beginners and intermediates would benefit from this comprehensive course. The course is designed to take learners and develop them into confident sculptural carvers.
What’s the most useful thing students will learn on your course?
You will learn all the skills and understand techniques in how to carve wood and how to produce beautiful sculptures.
What is it you love about woodcarving?
We take natures resources; wood and metal that are billions of years in the making. We then forge, hone and turn them into carving gouges. We then use those tools to produce sculpture and furniture. What’s not to love?
What qualities do you need to be a successful woodcarver?
Patience; and a love of wood and craft.
Any tips for anyone hoping to pursue a career in woodcarving?
Always be willing to learn and practice those learnt skills. Most of all enjoy your work!
Can you describe a typical day in your working life?
Wake up, read, draw and plan a project, carve until lunchtime and teach until sunset.
How long have you been carving wood for?
What are you working on now?
Most of my work is in the field of Japanese craft. I have worked for the National Trust, antiques dealers and as a lecturer/tutor in FE, HE and commercial enterprises.