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Here's My Woodcarving!
Shawn Watters
Washington, NC

(Click on any picture to see a larger version)
Newel Post Lady - Front

About twenty years ago, perhaps a little more, I visited some friends at their home in Bath, NC while in town for Spring Break. They were a talented group of guys I had hung out with occasionally over the years. We all gathered on the deck at the rear of the house and had beers and talked. And there in the corner of the deck behind a chair was an ornately carved piece of cedar, about six feet tall and probably eight or nine inches in circumference. One of the brothers (they were brothers, by the way) had carved it. And when I asked about it, he asked me to step in the house, and showed me three more, each one more impressive than the first. His name is Chris Jarvis, and he is a fantastic craftsman. I returned to college four days later and started my first carving. I have been carving ever since.
Newel Post Lady - Back

I enjoy a variety of woods, and abundant character in the grain, and even knots. I like to leave a portion of the material untouched, as a remnant of what it came from, an homage, if you will. I am a carpenter as well as an artist, and I like wood for form and function.
Silver Lining

Although I occasionally employ power tools, like a rotary tool or jigsaw, I prefer hand tools. I typically employ large chisels for the roughing out, and detail with a quarter inch chisel and a variety of Exacto style blades. Sanding is also a big part of the process, as I prefer to carve people and animals. I like a soft feel to the finished product, a feel you can see, if that makes any sense. I usually start with a sixty grit to break the grain and any errant cuts down. Then I run on down as far as 240, depending on the subject matter and the wood.
Thinking Man - Side View
Thinking Man - Top View

I used to use a hammer. My Dad gave me an old wood mallet that had been milled down and bound in leather. It killed the impact on me while still allowing the chisel to do its work. But my dog took it for a chew toy. In its absence, I finally learned the true importance of a sharp chisel and the right chisel for certain tasks.I rarely need a hammer anymore.
Water Nymph
Water Nymph - Closeup

I have been doing art of some form since I was six years old. I paint in watercolor, oil and acrylic, and have enjoyed some small success with pencil, doing portrait work. But none of these hold the same charm or allure as woodcarving. At this point in history, almost anything one draws or paints will find comparison. But, with carving, even mimicry is impossible, because no two pieces of wood are alike. It offers that rarest of opportunities in this less and less original world; to be unique.
Painted Lady

All of these carvings were executed with traditional carving tools, outside of the use of a coping saw on the butterfly carving (further below). They are cut from cedar, cypress, pressure treated pine, and an unknown variety used for Thinking Man , a piece of wood my Dad gave me many years ago. I rarely used chisels, except for wholesale removal of large sections of wood. The remainder of the work was done with carving knives, or, more precisely, Exacto tools. This is time consuming, of course, but allows much more dexterity with woods like cypress and cedar. The cypress had been in a pond for some time, and had become punky in several places. The cedar is a piece of siding off my Mother-in-laws house. The grain was very pronounced, and heavier tools would have caused splitting. Hand held tools, in my opinion, create a warmer, more approachable piece. The occasional cut allows an intimate connection to the carving, a blood oath, of sorts. Power tools move so quickly, a variance in the grain may be overlooked en route to the final outcome. With a delicate blade plying the wood, the artist must pause at an unruly knot or shift in grain. This pause gives the wood a voice in the process. It may maintain a piece of its character. This may seem overly romantic, but I have always sought out the image in the wood rather than determining a goal and separating the wood in the way.
Post Carving
150 Butterflies

By the way, I am Shawn Watters. I am married to Kellie MeGargle Watters, and we have two beautiful girls, Mattie and Harper. By day, I work at Pawley's Island, a division of The Hammock Source, making furniture. Otherwise, I am bleeding, or about to, on some project at my home in Washington, NC.


If you have any questions you can email Shawn at shawndylanwatters@gmail.com .

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