Learning Japanese Wood Carving

Over the weekend I attended a workshop where I learned the art of Kikezuri, or free form Japanese wood carving.  It was taught by Yo Takimoto and presented by The People's Pop Up.  Yo told us that he carved wood as a young boy in Japan.  Later he moved to the US graduated from USC with a degree in Architecture, and started wood carving again as a way to deal with work stress.  He's been traveling around teaching wood carving workshops for the last 15 years. We were first directed to choose our wood from a selection of different species from both America and Japan.  Since I had never worked with any Japanese woods before, I chose Sennen Sugi, a type of Japanese Cedar.  I chose Cedar because I knew it to be soft and since this was my first time carving, I wanted to go easy on myself.

Japanese Cedar Sennen Sugi
Japanese Cedar Sennen Sugi
Japanese Cedar used for hand carving
Japanese Cedar used for hand carving

Next we were given the knife with which to carve, called a Kiridashi.  It's held in the right hand as you push the blade forward with your left thumb.  I found this technique awkward at first, but then grew to like the control the two handed technique provided.  After about 20 mins, my left thumb was glad that I chose soft cedar.  A couple people had chosen Manzanita and were having a rough go of it.

Kiridashi Blade, Photo from ElderLaw on Etsy
Kiridashi Blade, Photo from ElderLaw on Etsy
Wood Shavings and Work Boots
Wood Shavings and Work Boots

Yo encouraged us to let the wood determine what shape it needed to be and to "not talk too much" as we were carving. (Yes, that comment was directed at me during class hahaha).  I found the action to be relaxing, because I did not have to think about making the wood into a shape, I just let it be the shape that it was.

After Yo determined our piece was done, we sanded our pieces and applied beeswax to finish and protect them.  I liked how mine turned out, but it was funny to me that Yo decided that my piece was to be displayed the opposite way than I thought it should be displayed and flattened out the "top".   Everything is subjective, I guess.

Finished Hand Carved Wood Project
Finished Hand Carved Wood Project

I enjoyed the carving and am planning on doing more free form carving.  I can see it being like sanding, a sort of mindless activity where I can let my mind wander.  I get all my great ideas while I'm sanding.   I bet I get even more while carving.