How did you discover that you like wood carving? I’ve always had a love of folk art, nature, and wood working. I originally got started by carving a duck decoy. As there was no internet or You Tube at that time, I bought a carving book to guide me. Much of what I learned was through trial and error, so I’m basically self-taught.
How long have you been working with this medium? My first decoy was carved in 1998. I worked in the garage where I lived at the time. I started building up quite a collection, so I decided to start a hobby business, which was quite successful. In 2009, I began pursuing woodcarving full time.
What do you like about it? There are many reasons why I enjoy both woodcarving and being self-employed. I’ve always had a love of working with my hands, whether it was print making, painting, or sculpting. I love the creative process and seeing a project evolve from the first idea to the end result. It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction to create. Being self employed allows me the flexibility to decide which part of the process I choose to work on. If I’m in the mood to paint rather than carve, I can focus on that. I am my own boss; my schedule can be flexible. I don’t have to get dressed in a suit or travel, as my studio is located in my own backyard.
Is there anything you don’t like about it? Every stage of the process involves using my hands. Whether I’m using the saw, painting, or carving. My hands tend to fall asleep often and I’m sure I’m already suffering from arthritis.
Did you always do something creative? If yes, what other mediums have you explored? My mother was an artist who explored many different mediums. I was exposed to creativity at a very young age and grew up being encouraged by her and her art.
Anything artistic gives me pleasure, whether it be sketching, working with watercolors, teaching others how to wood carve, or just a stroll through a museum.
Are there different types of wood that you like to use for your work? There are two main types of wood I use in my carvings. The Wood Spirits, which are whimsical faces that I carve into the wood, are created using cottonwood bark. The old growth and thick bark lend itself to a unique finish that highlights the natural wood and the bark’s beauty. For the figurative pieces, I use basswood. It is a soft wood without knots and has a tight grain. All these features make it perfect for fine detail work, such as faces.
what type of Paint do you use? do you Varnish or Lacquer each Piece? The Wood Spirit faces are finished with a brushed coat of beeswax. Once it is applied and rubbed in, it brings out the beautiful light and dark grain of the wood. The figurative work is finished using acrylic paint and then a coat of boiled linseed oil is applied. This both warms the tones of the acrylics and also seals the piece.
Where do you get your inspiration? I have a fondness for anything whimsical and colorful. I love antiques and old toys, as well as vintage folk art. I’m also inspired by other people’s art. I’ve always been a nature lover and an avid fisherman. I’ve been encouraged to carve fish of all types; I also love to read and get inspiration from that as well. But the thing that gives me the most inspiration is simply being in my studio with my tools. My studio gives me a peaceful place in which to nourish my creativity.
How do you begin working on a piece? For example, do you sketch first? When I first create a piece, I will sometimes sketch on it. It really depends on the complexity of the design. Some pieces I will create patterns for, so I don’t have to re-design each time.
Where can your work be found for sale? My work can be seen and purchased at fine craft fairs mainly in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware. My website, MDstudio.com features a calendar of these shows and of course a gallery of my work. Purchases and commission work are available there as well.
How can potential students find out about your teaching schedule? My teaching schedule is also available on my website. I’m excited to announce that this winter I will begin offering classes in my studio. Students are invited to sign up through the site. I will create a project to work on from start to finish or help students with a project of their choosing. All skill levels are welcome, and all supplies are included.
If you could gift a piece of your work to a famous person, whom would you choose? I’ve always liked larger than life characters and big personalities. Johnny Depp tends to play a lot of quirky characters like Edward Scissorhands, The Mad Hatter, and of course Jack Sparrow. So I would like to carve one of the characters he has portrayed.