Weekend with expert wood carver Peter Berry


Thank you to Samantha Jennings at Gayle Mill, in the Yorkshire Dales for this guest blog... Samantha's blog "Furklings on at Gayle Mill" can be followed here.

The woodcarving weekend began with expert carver and experienced tutor Peter Berry starting on Saturday with some brand new wood carvers. There was time to plan your design with some templates to follow should you wish. When I did the course I went freestyle straight away and decided to carve a landscape with a pig in the front…

You pencil your outline onto the wood. After a short explanation about why we would be using English Lime because it is pale in colour which shows definition, is soft and has a straight/close grain so easier to carve; we had the necessary health and safety brief. Not really a surprise when we’re using extremely sharp chisels! It takes a while to get used to how much pressure you need to use to make a cut in the wood rather than across your fingers. You need to have a go yourself to really appreciate how small an impression you make in the wood if you are too tentative – you could be whittling away at the wood for weeks! Then with Peter’s expert guidance you get hands on with the chisels and your carving journey is underway.

There is a sense of calm and concentration and before you know it the scrummy lunch has arrived. There are tales told and contented munching going on until a drift back to the work benches. Everyone is keen to continue. Under Peter’s peripheral vision everyone’s progress seems to flow nicely and there he is when you aren’t sure if you’ve gone deep enough or made the right shape.

 By the end of the day you have your own piece of pride and joy – I’ll be surprised if you are not addicted enough to want to come on the more advanced course by Peter Berry where you learn how to carve a spirit log head.

Here’s what happened with Peter on Sunday 12 May with the more advanced carvers when there was a definite aura around. We are not sure which folk character figure the spirit is based upon but it could have been the musician Ronnie Wood. The traditional methods began with planning the carving. It helped to have the design to follow.

There’s a big difference between a skilled person demonstrating how to do carving and actually creating a carved item yourself. How much pressure to apply seems to come with practice or brute force, maybe? And here you go from work in progress to the finished article!

The next course planned is dry stone walling on Saturday 8th June from 10.30 – 4.30. At a bargain price of £20 which includes a light lunch, contact Gayle Mill to book your place before they all go. Email: samantha.jennings@gaylemill.org.uk

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