Friday, March 15, 2013


Carved Lintel for Community Center Project

Some years ago, following my urge to cut carve and gouge, I became one of a group of apprentices participating in a Community Center Carving Project.    The group project was led by George Norris, a celebrated artist, sculptor and carver.   I longed to learn carving from a master and our task was to carve intricate details in yellow cedar posts which would serve as broad wooden lintels for doorways placed throughout the Community Center.  Before we were allowed to work on the lintels we were required to do a series of carving exercises on a block of wood. Once we learned and completed the exercises of carved wood patterns and George felt we were capable, we could then work on the yellow cedar posts.  George shared many insights with the group, from his rich career of carving, among which was an important lesson:  Don’t bleed on the wood as it penetrates the grain.  Unfortunately there is only one way to remove blood stains from wood and that is by removing the blood stained area, hence the wood itself. 
Blood Stained Number 7 Carving Tool

I learned this important lesson by experience while blood spurted wildly from a hand wound, caused by my ineptness with a lethal weapon aka “the number seven carving tool”.  I mention that it was a number seven so that anyone who is aware of carving tools can appreciate how hazardous this tool can be in the hands of a beginner. 
Anyone who can’t imagine the damage that it can cause may want to check out my scar, a rather large one, to validate this.

My Carving Exercise Block
As you might imagine I yelped a little when I stabbed my own hand, drawing the attention of the master carver who quickly came to my side to observe, not my wound, but the yellow cedar post where I had unknowingly leaked some blood. 
While I staunched the flow of blood as best I could, George quickly drew up a plan to remove the bloodied wood and in haste created an altered carving design to accommodate the removal of the bloodstain. 
There was no denying that my bloody wound came second to the importance of the lintel being carved. 
Artists and artisans often recall with fondness the words of wisdom from a mentor and for me the words I remember most fondly as my first words of professional advice were - DON’T BLEED ON THE WOOD!

Author:  Trish (BlackCrowCurios)

Link to George Norris Artist:
What words of wisdom do you recall from a mentor?


  1. I am laughing and nodding my head at the same time. I too a linoleum block carving class and they told us not to bleed on those either. In high school, I guess it was inevitable that someone got hurt.... I had the privilege of being First Blood.

    My current favorite words of wisdom from a mentor are "Whales survive on tiny krill." In reference to having a small business, I thought this was pretty neat.

  2. That is too funny! I totally understand the concern for the "art" vs the person. When I'm working with others teaching jewelry skills there are always dropped beads and bent wire. My concern is with finding the bead and not wasting the wire!

    Excellent article.

  3. Yep, it's all about the art before the blood!