I began to carve objects from wood when a close friend here in Austin, a lady from south Wales, died. It struck me that it would be a nice memento for her sister, who still lives in Wales, to make a Welsh love spoon in memory of Gina. Gina’s husband could take it over with him to the interment ceremony in April 2016. I had never carved anything in my life, but I had a few tools in the garage, and some old scraps of 2″x4″ lumber, so I began to carve a spoon with a Welsh Dragon (y DDraig Goch) for a handle. For a model I used a small anthracite carving of the Welsh Dragon that I had bought on a trip to Wales many years previously.
The carving was remarkably successful, upon which my wife pointed out that it would only be fair to carve a spoon for the bereaved husband as well. So I made a Daffodil (the national flower of Wales) spoon for him. My wife also needed something unique to give to Italian colleagues when she went over there for a conference, so I made another two spoons: an Etruscan chariot and a horned toad.
Then she announced that while she was gone in Italy it would be nice if I could make 20 card-holders to tell our guests where to sit at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners! I had several short pieces of roughly 1″ by 1″ moulding in the garage, all different and of different woods, so I set to work to make 20 tiny Texas animal carvings.
And from there the whole thing burgeoned: it turned out that several pieces of oak firewood on my woodpile had interesting possibilities, as did some very old redwood planking salvaged from a rotten deck – not to mention dead branches of Mexican buckeye that were going rotten in the yard. So I made several pieces about a foot high, mostly allegorical, from these woods.
I started getting ambitious -collecting very large pieces of wood from fallen trees in the neighborhood. Finally, 15 months and 48 carvings after beginning, I turned to stone. My first stone sculpture was in scrap limestone that was given to me by a friendly stonecarver, and was of a Manx buggane (sort of a leprechaun, but much meaner) trapped by St. Ninian in the rock. Then I carved a small two-tone pebble into a flower for our daughter, two of whose friends immediately suggested other carvings. So far I’m up to eight stone carvings.
My wife, bless her soul, also wanted a small wooden tray for her birthday. Not satisfied with making her a tray, I painted an Enid Blyton-like scene of two old hedgehogs sipping tea and reading, the one seated on a toadstool and the other on a quartz crystal, both of them being watched by a jealous spider and ignored by a literate snail. The two are seated by a yellow brick road in a large green meadow. So now I will have to practice composing scenes in two dimensions!
It is an amazing thing to discover at the age of 74½ that one has an unsuspected talent, crude as it may be. It is also daunting: in order to have any output at all one must work hard in the years left.