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Carving a simple wood "spirit".

After worship services one Sunday morning, we attended a slide presentation by a friend who traveled to Tanzania, East Africa last winter to visit a member of our congregation who serves on the mission field there under the auspices of Heifer Project International. The presentation reminded all of us how blessed we are here in America. Folks there have almost nothing. A simple grub hoe (pick mattox) and a machete are the only tools they own in order to grow enough food for themselves and their few livestock, and a bit extra to sell (in good years). The people are very poor and many malnourished. A well-to-do person would have no more possessions than the poorest of us here in America. There are wood carvers in the towns and villages that do beautiful work with simple iron tools made from old car springs and other scrap metal. They sell their carvings to the tourists on safari.

When we returned home, I looked over my workbench and felt very blessed with the wide variety of wonderful tools I have. It got me thinking about what kind of carving you or I would (or could) do if all we had were one or two simple tools.

I had purchased a simple wood spirit carving done by a fellow carver. I put my hand to work making a similar carving using one knife (a sharpened folding pocket knife will do), and some trimmings from a basswood tree that I had saved after having the rotting tree removed from our yard a year ago. I carved half a dozen or more wood spirits in a short time. (See attached photos.)

Wood spirits are whatever you imagine them to be. I come from a family with a rich Scandinavian heritage. Trolls, elves, huldrer, tomte, nisse and other mischievous characters were everyday companions to Scandinavian farm families of my generation. They are still around doing their mischief but you have to have an eye for them or you will miss seeing them. Look through a pile of wood trimmings, or a walk in the woods, and with a sharp eye, and the help of your pocketknife, you will discover them.

As you can see from the photograph, I use parts of the branches for the nose, tail and arms. Where there were none, I carved a simple nose. If there are no branches for arms, don't fret--not all carvings have to have them. A stub of a branch for the nose adds character rather than carving, a nose. An ideal piece of wood would have branches on either side for the arms, a small stub in the right place in front for a nose, and another stub in the lower rear for a tail. As you can see, most of mine did not have all those features but they worked out to make an interesting carving just the same. A rather crooked piece of wood makes for a more interesting carving.

I carved a simple pointed cap, some hair, and a beard. I used a small "V" tool to make the hair. If you don't have one you can make hair by carving tiny grooves with your knife blade. It just takes a bit more time. All that's needed for a mouth and eyes is a small slit. I darkened the slits so they are more noticeable.

I used a bright red paint for the cap, a medium gray (or brown) for the hair, flesh-color for the face, and green or blue for the body clothing. If you don't have flesh color paint, just leave the natural wood color. A bit of blush of thinned red will add color to the cheeks.

Adding a thin piece Of wood for a base helps it to stand better. This can be cut from an apple or peach crate or other scrap wood. I painted mine with a very light wash of color using Ceramcoat acrylic paint.

What if you could not afford to purchase paints and brushes? Some very nice colors can be made from natural materials such as red and purple from berries, yellow from onion skins, greenish-yellow and brown from walnut shells and husks, yellow from Goldenrod blossoms, etc. Brushes can by made by pounding the end of a small twig into bristles. There are all sorts of possibilities if you have to do something but have no tools to do it with.

If you have suggestions or questions, e-mail me at mmgillund@sytek. com, or write c/o Countryside. Have an enjoyable summer.

MEL & MARLYS GILLUND

MINNESOTA
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Title Annotation:The woodcarver
Author:Gillund, Mel; Gillund, Marlys
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Words:762
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