The Art of Wood Carving
Learn about Joyce McCullough 's wood carving and wood turning art, with Elizabeth Jennings.
The Art of Wood Carving
Elizabeth Jennings: With a cabinet maker for a father and an equally gifted mother, wood and power tools have always been a part of Joyce’s life. But it wasn’t until 1992 after her husband John took Joyce to her first woodcarving show that she truly discovered her passion for sculpting wood. In recent years, she has taken her carving skills an applied them to wood turnings, sculpting, texturing and burning on vessels and bowls. Joyce’s talent has been duly recognized and she has received many honors including several best of shows and people’s choice awards.
I met with Joyce at her home studio to learn all about wood turning and carving.
Tell me, how did you get started with all of these different talents.
Joyce McCullough: I’ve been painting ever since I was a kid. I come from a long line of wood workers and cabinet makers.
Elizabeth Jennings: So it seems like you were destined to be artistic in some sense.
Joyce McCullough: Yes.
Elizabeth Jennings: So you started on painting. How did you get involved in actually wood carving?
Joyce McCullough: My husband started that. He was a carver for awhile and he gave me a little book, a starting book and that’s got me started.
Elizabeth Jennings: You are very influenced by nature.
Joyce McCullough: Absolutely.
Elizabeth Jennings: Do you find that that’s your truest connection to your art is your love of nature?
Joyce McCullough: Absolutely. I have a knack for copying things. I’ve never considered myself as an artist because I copied. But being a wildlife carver, you have to. You have to put feather groups in, you have to put the fur in and make it look real.
Elizabeth Jennings: And that’s certainly where your painting skill comes in?
Joyce McCullough: That’s true.
Elizabeth Jennings: Because the pieces behind us are so incredibly realistic and so detailed that to have both skills is really just amazing.
Joyce McCullough: You can have a perfect carving and ruin it with paint, but you can have a not so good carving like the little chickadee in the back, it was my first bird. And because I could paint it, it made it acceptable.
Elizabeth Jennings: It made it that much more realistic.
Although Joyce has sold most of her carved pieces, she had set up a little display of the ones that still remained with her. I couldn’t wait to find out more.
So here we are with many of Joyce’s fabulous collection of pieces, some you’ve borrowed back that have been sold for our display. But really, it’s such a combination of different things. It’s amazing. But let’s start really with your first carving ever, this beautiful little otter. Tell me the story behind this.
Joyce McCullough: My husband gave me a little book and had that pattern in it, and that was my first attempt. It came out of a piece of 2x4 mahogany.
Elizabeth Jennings: Well, for your first piece, I can’t even imagine. And then, you have this amazing panda which this is the first time you didn’t use a template, right?
This is all one piece. Let me pick this up so you guys can see it. It is absolutely amazing. And you said that each individual little hair.
Joyce McCullough: The hair is all done with a rotary tool, the diamond tool.
Elizabeth Jennings: How long did this take?
Joyce McCullough: I don’t know. Maybe a month or so in the evenings.
Elizabeth Jennings: Let’s now look at some of your carving and turning which are your beautiful bowls you have here.
Joyce McCullough: This is a cherry bowl and I carved and outlined all the leaves and relief carved to rid the wood around the leaf and burned it around and painted it.
Elizabeth Jennings: Unbelievable. So now, this is when you turn the bowl and then you carve the inside. Absolutely gorgeous.
This though might be one of my favorite pieces. It’s this little acorn that has a little hidden top, see? It’s a little vessel. Is this what we’re going to be working on together today?
Joyce McCullough: Something similar. Maple leaves, but yes, the box.
Elizabeth Jennings: I love it.
Joyce McCullough: Let me show you how to take it from a rough round blank to that finished piece.
Elizabeth Jennings: Well, we’ll see about that Joyce.
Joyce agreed to teach me both wood turning and carving. These are two very different techniques each using different skill sets and requiring different instruments. Joyce demonstrated these techniques on a gorgeous maple wood box.
Alright Joyce. So we’re down in your amazing work room and you’ve promised to teach me how to make this awesome little vessel acorn.
Joyce McCullough: Something like that. A maple leaf box.
Elizabeth Jennings: Now, it starts with two different chunks of wood, one for the top and one for the bottom and you chose these because of the color.
Joyce McCullough: Yes. Usually, the oak leaves are more brown. I’d like to use the walnut and the maples so just think they’d look better with the cherry or maple wood or lighter wood.
Elizabeth Jennings: Awesome. So now, we have these big chunks of wood, we’ve got a giant lathe in front of us so you’re going to show us how it’s done, right?
It all begins with choosing an appropriate piece of wood for the box. Joyce explains that picking two distinct colors to contrast the top and the bottom is key. The piece of wood is then fixed on a lathe. Because of the high speed circular motion of the lathe, the process is called wood turning. Different forms and textures can be shaped by turning. Here, Joyce demonstrates the turning of the base of the box.
The Art of Wood Carving
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