Adventures in Artistry

I just ordered a woodcarving kit. I have no idea what kind of wood carving kit is actually a good one, or what all the things in the kit are for (although I am pretty sure any one of them could be used to take a finger off), or what I even need out of it yet, but that’s why I also ordered a beginning whittling book.

Because I have decided I am going to make a totem pole.

It all started when we drove past this log furniture place on the way up north last year. They always have some pieces sitting outside to try to lure you in and one day there was a brightly colored totem pole. It caught my eye the next few times we went by, and I thought to myself, would a totem pole not be the perfect thing to put at the end of our driveway at the lake?

But then, the next time we drove by, it was gone. I checked the website, no more totem poles.

That was okay, though, because I didn’t really love that particular style anyway. After researching totem poles, I learned that they are used to signify different things, and I want more of a “guardian” kind of pole than, say, a “pole of transgressions”. (That’s really a thing, can you believe it?)  I’m thinking more along the lines of woodland animals in some nice earth tones.

I googled where else I could get totem poles. I found artists that specialized in making them and then I had good, hard, back-to-reality jolt when I found out how much it would cost to have a custom totem pole made. That was when I decided I should make one myself.

My grandma took up whittling, later in life, because her father before her whittled. She made beautiful wooden fish and beavers with long flat tails that served as letter openers. (Which we never used because it was a treasure made by Gram that was just “for looks”). If Gram can do it, so can I, right? Ok, fine, Gram could also make some beautiful icing roses for cakes and I could never master that no matter how many times she tried to teach me, but I feel good about this whittling thing. It’s not my first foray into sculpture, after all.

When I was a teenager, my manager at the fast food restaurant where I worked for five long years, handed me a pair of clippers and said, “I want you to make that bush out back by the drive-thru menu into an alligator like this one.”

He pointed to the picture I had drawn on the chalkboard of Al the alligator, who was the star character of the kid’s meals at Rax Restaurants (Fast Food with Style!). Al was a very advanced alligator, he stood up vertical on his back legs, his tail wrapped around. I studied that bush for a couple of days- noting where the branches were, versus the greenery, and making a plan. And then, (by golly) I turned that bush into Al the alligator! My manager fashioned a pair of giant sunglasses out of the ends of restaurant size cans painted black (Al was also a very cool alligator who regularly sported shades) and placed them on his nose, the finishing touch to the one work of sculpting I ever did. At least I think it counts as sculpting, it better, because I’ve been counting it all these years since. (Not only am I a writer, I am an artist!)

So anyway, my woodcarving kit is on the way. I’m going to start small, and everyone might be getting wooden woodland animals for Christmas this year, and then next year they might get model totem poles and then maybe after that I’ll be ready to start the real thing.

Provided I still have all my fingers.

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