As well as giving tuition to larger groups and at schools, I really enjoy teaching individuals and small groups in my own workshop. It’s great to see what people choose to make when given the timber and tools and a chance to have a go.
They also get the chance to learn with a qualified and insured tutor who is one of the most experienced carvers currently working in the area. I am experienced in and can teach all kinds of carving, large or small scale.
Learners can use a wide variety of my own tools; from tiny gouges, through knives and axes to power tools. I try to give the important information that allows someone to be able to buy and maintain their own tools and continue carving at home.
If you have a woodcarving idea, I can probably help you to make it.
Will Barsley spent two days learning with me in 2013. He is now studying woodcarving at the City and Guilds College in London and writing about carving in publications and on his blog. Will has thanked me for the tuition that started him on his career, saying:
‘Thank you so much for today and last week for that matter.
Have really enjoyed the lessons and is so nice to have the opportunity to work with all your tools. ‘
‘you were my first tutor and really helped stoke the fire of my interest in becoming a wood carver.’
Quite a few carvings that I have made were for a particularly lovely reason: to say thanks. Sometimes they were for people who were leaving a job or other role, sometimes they were just for valued friends.
Sometimes, I’m asked to carve inscriptions on unusual objects which are to be given as gifts. Perhaps the most out-of-the-ordinary was this garden fork. Unlike many computer-controlled engraving machines, I can carve directly onto irregular and curved surfaces so there was no problem making it and then painting the image. In fact, it was a fun challenge to undertake!
Some people also want me to make gifts out of timber from trees that have had to be cut down. This plaque was carved out of wood from a much-loved cedar tree, for someone who was retiring from their job. I had to carefully cut up and join pieces of the timber in a very particular way, to ensure that the sculpture would last well indoors. It didn’t only require carving skills but also a good knowledge of joinery and how different timbers move as they season.
Some projects need a bit less letter cutting and a bit more artistic design, as with this plaque that was given to someone who was moving away from Bristol after many years living in the city. He loved the place and this illustration shows the ‘Matthew’ (a replica of John Cabot’s famous ship, which the recipient used to volunteer on) sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, heading towards the Avon Gorge and then out towards the sea. Do you recognise the poem? It is the first two lines of ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield.
I’ve carved signs for schools and community groups all over the country. Most are made from oak but if you would like to use another kind of timber, I’d be more than happy to advise on its suitability for whatever purpose you have in mind. I also have the relevant checks in place to come and install it, if you wish.
Signs can be finished with wax (if destined to be installed indoors), varnish or finishing oils. I can tell you more about the best one to use for a particular project when you contact me. For more information, please feel free to get in touch.
Memorial carvings have been some of the most touching ones that I have produced. Making a piece to remember somebody who is no longer with us is obviously not always a happy thing, but seeing how moved their friends and family are by it can be very rewarding as well. This plaque was installed in a school in Bristol to remember a former pupil who loved nature and I felt quite lucky that his mum and his friends were there to see it installed.
Sometimes, the piece of wood to be used is supplied and it can be an unusual shape, which many computer-controlled engraving machines wouldn’t be able to deal with. For me, it’s just an interesting challenge. One example would be this oak ball, which was to be used as the stopper on a carafe.
I’m also frequently asked to provide inscriptions on the work of other makers. The very talented furniture maker Sue Darlison needed a carving on one of her stunning benches and asked me if I could do it. I was more than happy to. The name and the inspiration for the design came from the lovely smile of the person who was being remembered.
I love a challenge! Sometimes people need inscriptions to be carved onto unusual objects and irregular surfaces, which many engraving machines would not be able to deal with. This oak ball was destined to be the stopper for a carafe.
I carve lettering using traditional carving gouges and chisels or, sometimes, a small multitool. The multitool is like a handheld drill that drives differently-shaped cutters. Although it is a power tool, the delicacy and precision that it is capable of reminds me of traditional hand tools.
If you have a project that you would like done but aren’t even sure if it’s possible, please contact me.
Whether it’s a new wooden house or business sign or a thank you gift for someone who is retiring, I can make it. I don’t just carve signs though; many businesses have used my services before, as well as other organisations such as community groups and charities, to commission one-off gifts and promotional items.
Signs are usually carved from oak that has come from sustainable forestry and finished with varnish, wax (for indoor use) or finishing oil, depending on which you prefer. I can also carve and paint any design that you would like to accompany the text and am able to carve using a large range of different fonts and styles. If you would like more information about what designs, timbers and finishes are suitable for the project that you have in mind, contact me to have a chat about it.
I can also make carvings from special pieces of timber, such as well-loved trees that have been cut down. The sunflower carving above was made using cedar from a tree that originally grew in the grounds of the headquarters for the cancer charity Penny Brohn UK. It came to me as an unseasoned log that had to be cut up and carefully joined to form the panel. When making it, the design had to account for any movement in the wood during seasoning.
This oak carving was made for a pub in Shropshire. The ‘Jack of Corra’ is a kind of old drinking vessel, and the spelling of ‘immemorial’ is exactly as the client wanted it.
The carving was from a design supplied by the customer and was carved in very low relief, as it was to be installed on a bar and so would be vulnerable to potential knocks.
If you have a particular picture that you’d like on your sign, I can carve and paint that too. This house sign includes a portrait of their cat:
…and if you are wondering what the writing in Greek on the house sign with the carved and painted hibiscus flower means, it translates as ‘House of flowers’.
After making a few ‘Metainsects‘, I started to think about what kind of predator would adapt or evolve to feed on such ornery little beasties. What would they look like?
With an anatomy-themed exhibition coming up, I started to carve a bird’s skull, but one that would eat tough, large and potentially dangerous insects. The skull is quite chunky and crested, so the bird would almost certainly be flightless but probably a good runner. It has a large braincase, so would be smart. The whole skull is about 25 centimetres (approx. 10 inches) long.
The nozzle on the beak would fire a sticky mucus that would disable the defences of the prey. This is adapted from a similar system used by a seabird called a fulmar, which shoots foul-smelling secretions at potential attackers from a similar nozzle over it’s beak. The large beak would then be able to pick apart the prey.
The skull part was carved from a single block of sycamore. The beak and nozzle are carved from a piece of English boxwood. The stand is stained oak and bamboo.
I really enjoyed carving the ‘Predator bird’s skull’. It gave a chance to revisit my studies in Zoology and the anatomy of this skull is based on those of real birds. The different bones shown ‘fused’ to form it match those in nature, albeit with some features (like the crest of bone) added or changed.
This portrait of the well-respected poet and botanist Libby Houston was carved into a large oak bench that I designed and made. which is now sited on the Clifton Downs in Bristol.
The leaves that she is holding are from a Houston’s Whitebeam, a sub-species of Whitebeam tree (Sorbus spp.) which is only known from a single specimen growing in the Avon Gorge near Bristol. Libby discovered the tree and it has been named after her.
When Libby visited, she brought the leaves with her for me to copy in carvings on the bench and also very kindly explained what made them distinct from similar trees. Whitebeams are deciduous, meaning that the leaves are shed by the tree every autumn (fall). Therefore obtaining these leaves hadn’t damaged the tree at all.
After she had left I realised that, since there is only one specimen of this tree known to exist, they must be leaves from the world’s rarest tree.
This totem pole shows things that are important to the person who received it – a collection of personal totems including an owl, a horse and a trout.
The piece was carved for a commission in 2012 and is now installed in the New Forest, Hampshire. It was a lot of fun to carve but also quite a challenge, as it includes a portrait of the person that it was a present for. This was the first portrait that I had been commissioned to carve.
The pole is carved from durable European Larch, grown in the local area to my workshop. It is 14 feet (4 m 20 cm) tall in total, with 4 feet (1m 20cm) going underground when installed.
I couldn’t meet him in person to take measurements and so the portrait had to be done solely from photos, which were all taken at different times in his life. I never got to meet either the person who commissioned it or the subject of the portrait carving, so have no idea how close the likeness is!
Apparently he likes the carving though, which is what everyone wanted.
This bench is the largest single project that I have taken on to date, being 2.5 metres (8 feet) long and weighing well over half a ton. It was commissioned by the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society in Bristol and was installed in June 2015. The wood is oak that originally grew on a farm outside the village of Backwell, about seven miles from where the playground where the bench has been situated.
The bench is quite unusual, as the site that it has been placed on is part of Clifton Down in Bristol. The Downs Committee, who oversee the running of the area, hardly ever give permission for permanent works of art to be installed there and I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity.
The bench was almost two years in the making and shows notable people, creatures and structures to do with the area. Researching it myself was fascinating. One carving is a portrait of renowned poet and botanist Libby Houston, who visited my studio a couple of times. Showing her the portrait for the first time was a little nervewracking! Fortunately, she liked it.
Amongst many other subjects, the bench also shows Thecodontosaurus, the ‘Bristol Dinosaur’, which was discovered not far from the playground.
The bench rests on three large oak carvings showing creatures that lived in the seas that covered the area millions of years ago; a crinoid, a coral colony and a brachiopod (a shellfish a bit like a modern clam).
There is also a ‘treasure trail’ of ten spider carvings hidden all over the bench for visitors to try and find if they can!