I do realistic woodcarvings of quilts and caps. Earlier in my career I carved clothing, but I don’t do that much anymore. Essentially, I carve things that are “keepsakes”; objects that we tend not to throw away; things that people, in general, will relate to on a personal level, that connect us to events or people from our past; something that we save, even after it’s too worn-out to use.
What I do involves going beyond that “idea”. I want the viewer to feel the effort involved. The act of carving a quilt from a 200-pound block of wood is in no way pleasant. It’s dirty, dusty, and incredibly tedious, with lots of heavy lifting. There is no joy in the process. The pleasure comes from a sense of accomplishment when a new piece is done. Scale is important. I want you to feel the work that went into that piece. So, I like carving quilts, because the act of making a real cloth quilt involves a lot of work. My work is a tribute to that work.
As for the technique, I try to fool the eye from about 3 feet, not 3 inches. Each piece is carved from a single block of basswood and stained with water-based pigments. The stain allows the texture of the wood surface to remain exposed, which lends to the illusion of fabric. I do not carve exact replicas of cloth, but rather something that looks like what our “mind’s eye” perceives as cloth. At first, you see a quilt and you’ll make some sort of mental judgment on that. Then you discover that it’s a block of wood, and you have to immediately change that judgment.