There are very few woodcarvers teaching classical woodcarving in the U.S. Mary May is one of those few, and is also distinguished by being both a well experienced artisan, as well as a person with a wonderful teaching style.
Just because one is very skilled doesn’t mean they can teach well. Case in point was an experience with a trap shooter who has over half a million registered targets in his competition history. Yes, he can hit well, but when instructing others he barks out things like, “Well, you hit that one, but you didn’t deserve it.” or “Why did you do it like THAT!?”
Mary is just the opposite. Her skill is shown in short demonstrations that teach a particular technique. Then she sends people to their work and coaches them appropriately as they practice and absorb the technique. Easy going, enjoyable and effective!
The weekend occasion was a “Beginners Woodcarving” class with Mary at Kelly Mehler’s fine school in Berea, Kentucky. Mary started us off with a “donut” exercise that quickly teaches one to sense and accommodate grain direction. Next was one of her favorites, the Camellia flower. After those, we moved to an acanthus leaf, linenfold, and a convex shell. The shell is moving well beyond “beginner” territory. In short, we covered a lot more than I expected. (No, I don’t have pictures of my own work … because not a single one of the projects was carried to completion, either in that class or yet.)
There’s nothing better than someone exceeding your expectations.
More info and pictures at Mary’s blog.