A Woodcarving Weekend with Mary May

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.

5 Responses to “A Woodcarving Weekend with Mary May”

  1. bonnie Says:

    Bob! Guess what I FINALLY did on Sunday! 😀


  2. Bob Says:

    CONGRATS Bonnie!!!

    Whether funny little characters, classic style relief, or rowing paddles, carving has a lot of rewards. Looks like Greenland paddles I see in the pictures. You’ll enjoy those for a very long time. Congrats!

  3. Bonnie Says:

    Thanks! I’m still excited that I actually made something like this. Can’t wait to try it out (although I do want to put some tung oil on it before I put it in the salt water).

  4. Bob Says:

    Hey Bonnie,
    Beware. Most of the stuff labeled as Tung oil usually isn’t. The great majority are actually rubbing varnishes, containing a lot more varnish than oil. They build fairly quickly to a durable finish, but aren’t as easily renewable as real oil. Real oil needs a lot more build, but you can keep doing the same thing over and over for the life of the paddle … no need to remove old finish and start again.

    So, look for REAL Tung oil. Behlin is one.

    … and it won’t hurt the paddle at all to get it wet before oiling. Go have a great ride, then let it dry and oil it later.

  5. Bonnie Says:

    Thanks for the warning & the advice, I wouldn’t have known either!

    Maybe I’ll test it out this weekend!