Mohawk Valley Art & Woodcarving Association
by Michael Bloomquist
No fancy quotes this month, sorry. On top of that I missed the meeting in January this month... bummer. We got some news from John Raucci. Something about 78deg, sun, and carving in the front yard. Can you tell he's not in New York anymore? Maybe we can vote him into another club position of authority while he's gone.
We had some correspondence with Carol Ayers about the Syracuse woodworking show this month. It was sponsored by this national outfit, and I found her a web site. Looked real good, but bad weather was predicted and she was worried. Well the weather stayed good, but after all that, Carol and her husband got there for the first day (Fri.) and most of the big name booths had canceled. I knew the Onondaga Woodcarvers weren't going to be there from my copy of their newsletter, but this show did a `melt down'. It was so bad that the Ayers got their admission refunded ($16-$18). To bad they didn't cover their 5-6hr round trip from Latham! Anyhow, she e-mailed me, and I passed the news to several others who planned on going. Saved us all a bunch of disappointment Carol, thanks! She says they're looking forward to the show in Saratoga Spa. now... sometime in March I think she said. That's got to be a decent show, they usually have members of our club there don't they? More details on that when they get here.
Club Programs director Dick Moran's been busy. Here's the program
schedule for the next few meetings.
At this month's program, Gordon Litke (with Dick Moran assisting) gave a demonstration on bowl turning for the purpose of carving. Didn't see this one... wish I had... you missed it too? Well hang in there! There's a rumor afloat that he might do a repeat performance at our show this April. Stay tuned!
Want to thank Peter Paulding for doing John Raucci's newsletter job while he's South. Sorry Peter, John warned you about me!
Here's the only Thursday report I got. Take it away George Hallenbeck!
Thurs. Jan. 4
Carl Borst doing his thing showing Bob Meyers and Bill(Leonard) DiCaprio how to do faces. I bet we see results next week. We are fortunate to have many teachers and pleasant ones at that.
Jim Bollbach carving in cottonwood bark. We don't see much of this material. He had a really striking wood spirit. Nice to have you with us Jim. Come often.
Jim Harvey unveiled his newest , a rough out that will some day be a robed Xmas mouse with the largest ears you've ever seen... about 9" high and a squeaker. We'll be watching Jim.
Nice to see Steve Madej carving a Roman soldier profile, low relief. Good idea Steve, keep chipping away.
Joe Rusik brought in a beautiful pair of chickadees in a great setting. Joe is really for the birds. I gave him a copy of a small bear in a cowboy boot that I did for my new grandson, Logan, and darn if he didn't make a better one than mine. He'll get the boot for that one.
Marcus and Ron Redmond in with their various miniatures, geese, cranes and Marcus` wonderful hummingbirds about 3" high perched on a carved flower. Ron also working on a sleepy, little dog. What a varied group we are.
Stopped by at Santa Claus City (Dick Moran`s manger area). With his Magi carvings for the nativity set about finished, sitting in the middle of a variety of Santas. Xmas comes every 3 months for some carvers. Dick`s Santas are great and in demand! Merry after Xmas Dick!
Confessions of a Woodcarving Teacher
Teaching Woodcarving. If I had known how much fun this was going to be it would have happened a lot sooner. Having put in 5+ years of teaching high school Physics at one point ('79-'85) you would have thought that teaching woodcarving would have seemed like a good idea much sooner. I really enjoyed teaching Physics. Those of you who suspected I was a little 'weird' now realize how truly disturbed I really am. As much fun as it was, nothing compares to teaching something you are obsessed with. Coming home from the first night of my latest woodcarving class, with the usually idiot's grin on my face, Yvonne asked me how many classes this made. I had to think for a minute. After the smoke cleared the number was '11'. After more recollection (and still more smoke), we pegged the first class I taught as fall '95, ten years after I carved my first fishing lure. Why so long? I guess I really didn't feel 'qualified' to teach carving, even then. Hindsight being "20/20" teaching woodcarving should have started much sooner.
In a way, it did. That summer, my daughter Melissa bought her first woodcarving knife and at a show in Morrisville, VT, asked me to show her how to carve wood. Being my first student doesn't seem to have left lasting scars, but if she ever goes under hypno-therapy later in life, I could be in trouble. Her first project was mouse-over-the-shelf-edge blank, which she had bought from an older couple in another booth. These folks had a wonderful selection of blanks sprawled all over their table, each in a zip lock sandwich bag with a little Xeroxed page of the original pattern. All were very good beginner projects at 1$-$2. So Melissa's been carving for over five years now. It really hit home recently when I watched her buy two new knives for herself and a 'friend'. The knives were identical to her first, but the blade on her original was only half the width, and is retired to being a detail knife now. Knife and owner are both woodcarving veterans.
My first formal carving class was at Sweetheart Stamps here in Rome, NY. The project was a very simple 'Santa' pattern by Harley Refsal. How did it happen? I was just standing there minding my own business, in the shop with my daughters and started teasing Theresa, the owner, about having stamping classes, and paper making classes, and card making classes, but no woodcarving classes. Her comeback was "when do you want to start?" Harold Kaltenbach was an unwitting victim of that first class. He too seems to have survived the experience with no visible scaring. I would point out that he attended my second 'Santa' class the following year, but someone might suggest therapy and then there's the hypnosis threat again. Ah well, we did many classes at the stamp store... relief carvings, tomtar, love spoons... nothing was sacred. Then there was that class we held in the biker bar, where I taught them how to carve Teddy Bears. Honest!!
OK! Recommendations, lessons learned, and how I would do it different if given the chance. Just do it!! Don't wait until someone asks you to teach a formal class. Don't wait until you're 'qualified'. Don't wait until you've written that book. If you know something about it that someone else doesn't, and you share that knowledge with them... congratulations! You just became a teacher. You are qualified. Teaching can be as simple as that. The first level you'll probably teach will be beginners level. Be honest! This is the first group of people that's going to meet the first criteria... 'you know something that they don't, but want to'. In my humble opinion they're also the most fun. Their enthusiasm and rate of improvement are probably the highest. Heck, sometimes I don't think I 'taught' my beginners anything, just kind of opened the gate and tried hard to keep from being trampled as they screamed down the road. While we're 'there' here's a gem: "It's a poor teacher who isn't surpassed by one of their students". Yeah, yeah, it's corny and Kung Fu'ish... "When you can snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper..." but be prepared. If you have difficulty with someone you taught, carving things that exceed you, teaching will be an ugly experience. It will happen. Jealousy pangs are permitted, but they pass. Have joy in the fact you helped that person get 'there' in at least a small way.
What works for me... First class: The students get a 'throw away project'. In my case, it's a fish shape cut from 1" shelving lumber. Tell them it's meant to be practiced on... it's nasty wood, but it will teach them about cutting 'with the grain' and 'against the grain'. Usually this turns into a very fine weathervane style carving, but I want to get them by that feeling of "Oh my God! What if I screw up this carving?!" Then teach them the basic cuts, the basic stop cuts, and sharpening on the strop. After that class it's each at their own pace. For an eight week class (16 hr total) I get them through 'the fish' and one other project. The second project I let them pick from a collection of beginner projects I pull from my library. Hopefully they get a project that appeals to their interests. Double bonus that way! Oh yeah! Class Rule #1: "You will have fun!" The last thing I want is several disgruntle woodcarving students with sharp instruments... or dull instruments for that matter! Seriously, for the first class... lots of breaks. The best way not to get cut is not to carve tired. And getting cut is usually a beginners primary concern. Remind them of that for when they're carving at home, practicing for the next class.
Well, that's it this month. Next month maybe I'll tell you about that 'Teddy Bear Class'.
Keep the edges sharp and the chips piled high!
Full of it as usual,