Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Hug. I thought of every hug I've ever had or witnessed in my whole life. What a joy. Also what a joy to carve as slowly as I  do. Gives me a lot of time to meditate on whoever/whatever I'm carving. It's always about my heart. My sculptures are made from my stories, people who see them naturally create their own. I love that.This is made of a 1/4 cut log from the Olmstead Linden, 16"H/7"W/6"D.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Fish

This fish looks different from each side. I think I've got a trend going with that lately. The wood was quite different on each side, colored differently, marked differently. The line bisecting the length of the top image is part of the grain. The "eye" on the middle image was a hole that was inside the wood- probably an insect?

This mahogany wood came from a couple of fine cabinet making brothers I grew up with, who became good friends with my carver father. They gave him their scraps- some scraps! I have a couple more pieces of this wood, and alas, the brothers have retired. I've enjoyed for years making very different sculptures out of these similar shapes.

I like the subtle swimming the Fish has going on. I think he's moving slowly through the water, probably the ocean.

The Fish is 17 1/2 inches long, 4 1/2 inches high, 2 inches wide.  Allan Spader, photographer, took the two top photos. His books, his vases. Nice!

No photo description available.

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The Cat

I carved The Cat from a piece of the Olmsted Linden. It's gorgeous wood. I saw that it was a cat right away, from the little branch sticking out.

She's a combination of the only 2 cats I've ever had. One side is like skinny Sido, the other like fat Adolphine. It's fun to try to be true to an odd piece of wood, incorporate its quirkiness with my own. 

She's 15 inches long, 61/2 inches high, 5 inches wide. Finished with linseed oil and creamed beeswax.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


I lived for many years on the edge of a marsh. Herons and egrets were there every day in season, except for about 10 years when the ecology of the marsh had been unbalanced by an oil spill in the harbor miles away. So they disappeared until the water was right again. It was a happy day when they came back.

This piece is from the Olmstead Linden. The steel base was designed and created by Bob Menard, Ball and Chain Forge. He's an artist himself, and he did a beautiful job. I look forward to having him collaborate on future work.

The heron is (base included) 21.5" high, 13"wide, 7" deep.


This lady is meditating on her good life, the abundance of love and joy she's had. Like me.
The wood is from the Olmstead Linden. She's 11" high, 7" wide, 6" deep. The piece is finished with creamed beeswax.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Harbor Seal"

This fat seal is basking by Casco Bay, near his cronies out on the rock island. Seals always make me smile.

"Harbor Seal" is of spalted birch, finished with creamed beeswax. It is 13"W/6"D/7"H.

"Puppy Dream"

"Puppy Dream" is a portrait of my dog Ardo, remembered from so many years ago when he was young.

This sculpture is cherry, 11"W/9"D/3.5"H, finished with creamed beeswax.


This is a particularly heartfelt work, in its inspiration, and in honoring the piece of wood. My father cut this tree from his land.

"Despair" is of butternut, 8"H/6"D/3.5"W. It is finished with creamed beeswax.

"Hope", Mahogany praying hands with steel base

I love hands, love looking at them, love carving them. Sometimes I can remember the hands of people I knew years ago more clearly than their faces.

This sculpture is mahogany, measures 18"H/6"W/2.5"D, finished with creamed beeswax. It is mounted on a fired and waxed steel base by Ball and Chain Forge.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cute little chipmunk

Chipmunks are such fun to watch. This little guy was pretty tame, would run right between my feet going back and forth on my patio between food and his hole in the ground. 

The carving is about life-size, done in basswood, finished with creamed  beeswax.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Wood Carving Studio Tour video: bench, gouges, tools, carvings

Come along for a tour of my studio in Maine! Check out my bench, gouges (Swiss Made, Woodcraft/Princeton) and carvings on display. Would be great to hear from other carvers!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Furniture builder teaches artists the business

John Stass, “Structure sets you free."

Working artists need to earn a living while creating their art. These two requirements can seem at odds with each other. Few artists experience “build it and they will come.” The business side of art often feels limiting. The working artist must figure out how to work in partnership with customers, the marketplace, other artists, and in many cases, the employer. The employer as mentor ideally sets structure to make the business successful, and within that structure gives artistic free rein. John Stass has become a master at both.

John, the owner of Katahdin Studio Furniture, has been a professional artist for 15 years. He started in a small workshop at his home, and 14 years ago moved his workshop to the historic Hill Mill in Lewiston, Maine. This complex has housed various businesses for more than a century. In 2008, he doubled the size of his production area, and added a gallery showroom. It’s an impressive, huge space, the history is palpable. Over the past six years, he has hired fine craftspeople to work with him. Together, they design and build, continually expanding their repertoire. John’s work is commissioned world-wide... often by a celebrity clientele. Melissa Etheridge, the late Andy Griffiths, John Sebastian, and the Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien shows are among them. He creates specialty furniture for customers in all 50 states, Canada, Europe and Asia.

He shifted from a long profession in the corporate world when he made his first guitar stand. His art career was born and has steadily grown. That growth has generated the need to employ artists and artisans to help create and keep up with demand for his superb high-end furniture. He hires people with a mind to their becoming collaborators in the business, as well as designers and builders.

He always looks for different skills and experience levels, to augment his own and those of the other staff. He looks for the contributions they will make, encourages them with his own mentoring and sets the stage for them to mentor each other. Some have earned furniture design and production degrees, with high artistic sense and knowledge of the art world. Others have been home-builders and contractors, general artisans, former owners of their own businesses, furniture makers with decades of experience. John says “I hire people who are better than I am, and that’s pretty easy to do. If they are not already better, I expect them to become so. That way I don’t have to defend my own ignorance. I’m a self-taught woodworker, and that’s not something I’m proud of. I would have progressed so much faster with mentors. My staff members cannot make a mistake that I haven’t already made myself.”

John’s challenge is to mentor his staff to become better working artists. Katahdin Studio’s customers have clear expectations of design and quality. Many of them have commissioned furniture from John over years. How does he help the artists learn the “Katahdin look” and at the same time develop their highest inventiveness?

John sets clear prerequisites about what that “Katahdin look” is. He establishes parameters, and then trusts the artist. He says “Constraints can engender greater creativity and make it flourish. I help artists deal with the real world, cost limitations, and use constrictions to explore virgin territory.” His customers want natural-looking pieces, accentuated woods, grain that can be felt, always an earthy look and almost austere designs. Katahdin’s work is not like any other, everything is original. John sets these criteria, and then lets his artists go. He talks about Stephen and Caleb, Maine College of Art graduates. “They often design in tandem, and keep their designs within the workshop’s capacities. They use each others’ strengths and augment each others’ weaknesses.” He invites their ideas and suggestions, and learns from them himself. He says they “doubled my palette of possibilities and vocabulary of woodworking. They combined different materials- metal and wood. They have collaborated with other craftspeople, thus expanding the range of possibilities. They have showed me what a box I was in. They make things that are beyond my imagination. Their pieces look like nothing else in the Katahdin collection, yet they all fit the criteria.” They pass steps in the work to each other, considering who is most skilled in that step, in order to be expedient. Because they went to school with each other, they knew each other very well and easily blended their approaches.

The two newest staff members, Fred and Michelle, have worked together, at the time of this writing, for two weeks. They do not know each other, the “Katahdin look,” or the design parameters. John’s mentoring focus is shifting to teambuilding and altering his approach according to their styles. He is re-instituting a design center to help them learn about each other and coordinate their designs. This area will house clippings and sketches that will keep changing. He also keeps a drawing table and supplies there. “Drawing by hand is not looked down on, although we will be mentoring each other on computer drawing.” Positive reinforcement is very important for these newer members. Fred has long general craftsman experience, Michelle is a former contractor. A new mentoring cycle is beginning, and John is excited. Like all of the artists I’m writing about, he loves best to learn from the people around him, a primary mentor characteristic.

John teaches the Katahdin artists to mentor through his own example, and not only to mentor each other. I had the great enjoyment of taking a furniture class with John, Stephen and Caleb. We were learning to hand craft a small bench, with chisels, mallets and hand saws our only tools. I’d never come close to building a piece of furniture before. My wood sculptures have nothing to do with measuring. However John anticipated, optimistically, that the bench would be a piece of cake for me. Not so much. A couple of hours into the work, he commented with surprise “Susan, this really is a stretch for you, isn’t it!” Yes, it was, and a stretch for each of the eight people in the class. Some had built furniture using machinery; some had never made anything of any sort out of wood. And then there was me, fitting pieces together with accuracy a total mystery. We were all baffled in our own ways. Our teachers gave each substantial individual attention, with the additional pressure of getting us to the same end point after two days: completed benches. The least experienced in the group was off and running immediately; she had nothing to unlearn. The most experienced pined for their band saws. I just didn’t get how these perplexing cuts were going to result in something that would actually stand evenly and firmly on the ground. As in my story about Chris Pye, John, Stephen and Caleb spent some time presenting basics to the whole group. Individual mentoring works best when there is a baseline of information and understanding. Then they made their rounds. I learned how to use a carpenter’s chisel vs. a carver’s chisel, how to let a handsaw do its work without undue pressure, and how to compensate for inaccurate measurement. I measured inaccurately a lot. And amazingly to me, I finished my bench by the end of the class. Stephen and Caleb knew exactly when to stand back and coach, and when to give a hand. My favorite line from them was “Everyone is doing so well; I’m a little bored right now. Would you let me make this cut for you so I have something to do?” All of us pretty much finished at the same time, proud of our benches. I’m hugely proud of mine. It stands on the floor squarely, I can sit on it, and it has a prominent place in my living room.

Stephen and Caleb were so encouraging to give me some thoughts about how I can integrate mortise and tenon techniques with my free-form sculpture. Great ideas that inspire me to expand my own creativity. That’s what artists mentoring artists is all about.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mahogany Fish Sculpture: woodcarving

Looks a bit like the Mahogany Whale, but the tail fins are vertical, and a whale's flukes are horizontal. 
This fish is 15" long and 4" high. Like an actual fish might be.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tim Byrne, Humbleness and Questions. Mentoring, artists, photography

This article is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: "Artists Mentoring Artists" Tim has been a mentor to me for years, and took the sculpture portraits I'm using on this site. Tim Byrne Photography

Tim Byrne: Humbleness and questions

Mentors are not gurus. They do not dump data. They do not tell people what to do. They are not wed to their own opinions. They do not know it all. They ask questions born of genuine curiosity about their mentees, and desire to help them expand their work.

Tim Byrne is such a mentor. He roots his mentoring in humility, high interest in and admiration of other people, and skill at asking questions to draw out their talent and confidence.
I met Tim when I started my management consulting business. I joined the Chamber of Commerce, and he was the first person to welcome me. He also immediately started to mentor me. He learned about my business by asking me thought provoking questions. He introduced me to resources, offered to edit my marketing materials, encouraged me to become involved in projects that showcased my skills, he advocated for me. He lives to help people, and he has helped me a great deal. He still mentors me, now focused on my sculpting and related business challenges. I’m always energized, enlightened and inspired by talking with him.

Tim mentors: it’s just what he does. Why? He says “I’ve been blessed through my whole life with good teachers. I knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher, and that’s been my slant on my entire career. I’ve been in sales, marketing, and now professional photography.  It’s all about teaching, and good teaching is mentoring. All mentoring is mentee-focused.”

Tim now works with both aspiring and experienced photographers. He’s taught classes and mentored in many settings for many years. He says it’s no different than mentoring at Proctor and Gamble, where he learned about formal mentoring. There, everyone was expected to get mentored and be a mentor, as well. He believes that everyone needs a mentor, whether pursuing corporate or artistic goals.

If you want to be a successful photographer, you need to learn three sets of skills: technical, artistic and personal.  Tim says “Photography is a people business. For instance, you have to be able to build a relationship in seconds when doing portraits or model shots. You need to be able to click with the subject quickly in order to capture a likeness that truly reflects that person. I’ve worked with President George W. Bush, I’ve worked with school kids. It’s all the same process. Even if you’re not taking photos of people, you still need people skills to deal with customers and potential customers.”

Beyond the personal skills, photography is a “Gemini business. It’s artistic and technical both. Tim mentors aspiring professionals on the realities of the business. Taking photographs is about five percent of the activity. The other 95% is processing, marketing, finding the next shoot. This is not the glamorous business that mentees often think."

How do you get your work to come out in a predictable and repeatable manner? Tim: “Dr. W. Edwards Deming talked about a predictable course of improvement. When I mentor people, they must want to get better, regardless of their current skill levels. We can all get better. We need to be strong enough to boldly look at what’s wrong with our work, in addition to what’s right with it, within ourselves and the wishes of the marketplace.”  People need to be pushed to conquer their fears. Tim is very afraid of heights, yet he often shoots from extremely high places. He has pictures to prove it. His mentees frequently dread taking photos of people. They must learn to overcome that reticence by just doing it, so he assigns photographing people to those mentees, patiently encouraging them.

I asked Tim how he approaches this three-tiered photography mentoring- technical, artistic and personal. Does he cover all three aspects at once? Does he assess mentee strengths and weaknesses and choose an area to focus on? Does he start with one and build on that towards mastery of all three? His response, “I don’t choose what aspect to focus on, my mentees do. I help them decide by asking questions. The mentee drives the entire process, I teach them how to think about it. There are six basic questions that I find myself asking all the time. No matter what quality of work someone presents to you, never say that’s bad or good. Instead, get them to analyze themselves:
1.       What are you trying to do?
2.       Where have you succeeded/not?
3.       How will you improve?
4.       How do you plan to get to your goal?
5.       What happens if you don’t get there?
6.       What happens if you do get there?”
The last question is an unusual one. Tim says “a lot of people fear success. It changes our world in ways we don’t know about yet. We all know what it’s like to fail, because we all fail. How many successful athletes and other celebrities go on benders or go bankrupt? They don’t get guidance on how to manage success.”

Tim doesn’t want to create “little Tim’s,” even though mentees may ask him to judge their work. He does mentoring in portions that the mentee can easily welcome. “It’s like doing figure work. The models let me into their space; the mentees need to let me in, as well. Then the mentees can say their dreams and their weaknesses, and I can help them chase those dreams and build on those weaknesses. I can’t tell them what to do, because then I’d be holding mentees to my own limitations. It’s not the world according to Tim.” In classes, students will bring photographs, asking Tim to give his opinion right away. Tim says “Neat. What were you trying to do? What techniques did you use to do it? How did you accomplish what you did? Are you pleased? Why? How are you benchmarking your work? What will you do differently next time?” This opens people up to the process of self-evaluation, and removes Tim from being either the bad guy or the genius. He teaches them to think, and to feel like they’re improving. He wants to keep the process of development going, keep the conversation going. Tim says he doesn’t have the credentials to “preach” artistically, so he doesn’t give that kind of advice. He is not formally educated as a photographer. He reads, looks at others’ work, and often refers mentees to other resources. I just brought a work-in-progress carving to Tim to document my process. He examined, and was reminded of a painter who portrays action using techniques that are similar to the grain of this wood. He right away showed me the artist’s work on the Internet, to stimulate new thinking.

Not surprisingly, Tim has had mentors who’ve helped him become a successful as an artist and business person. He currently has a co-mentoring relationship with another local photographer. They are both members of the Maine Professional Photographers Association. They get together before competitions and critique each other; their markets are very different, so they are only nominally competitors. They share projects, are good friends, trust each other, and “tweak” each other. They even mentor each other about the business, within allowable legal limits. One challenge is dealing with the “ipod  photography club,” people who take their own special event photos with their camera phones. Tim says this is not good photography, but it does impact the professional business.

Tim partners with other photographers and visual artists whenever possible. He is dedicated to his own learning as much as that of others. He knows that being a good mentee is precedent to being a good mentor. He has the humbleness for both.

Mahogany Whale Sculpture: woodcarving

I've only see whales in captivity, impressive yet sad to see such huge lovely animals in tanks. Aquariums and zoos are disturbing to me, however interesting. 
This mahogany whale is lap-size, and like all of my soothing stone pieces, feels cool and silky to stroke. It is 18" long and 4" high. 

I mention in my Lost in the Wood video, Lost in the Wood You Tube video, my friend and photographer Tim Byrne, Tim Byrne Photography, carried it around in his arms like a baby, saying it felt just like his new granddaughter. Tim took the sculpture portraits I'm using on this site.

Quantum Dance Sculpture: woodcarving

"Quantum Dance" is joyous. It is movement, connection to the Universe and beyond, full of possibilities, questions with no answers, not needing answers. 

The pose was inspired by "Afternoon of a Faun," originally danced by Nijinsky in 1912. Very beautiful and very strange. Here's a link to Nureyev's version: Nureyev dancing "Afternoon of a Faun" , much easier to see than the fragmented film of the original: Nijinsky dancing "Afternoon of a Faun". Can you find the pose?

This piece in basswood is approximately 15" high, 12" wide. 

A simple artist mentoring story

This article is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: "Artists Mentoring Artists"

A simple mentoring system story
A long time ago, I showed my wood sculptures to a friend, Sam. He admired my work, and asked me to teach him. I’d learned to carve by watching and working alongside my father, so that seemed like a sensible way to proceed. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I constructed a simple mentoring system using all six Building Blocks.

1. Evaluate strengths, needs and aspirations. Sam had never done any kind of woodwork, so he needed to learn everything about how to use the tools and navigate the grain. He did have a good sense of design and was able to sketch his idea to achieve a particular effect with the grain.

2. Create opportunities to learn on the job. The workplace was my “studio”, my kitchen table, equipped with wood and an array of gouges and chisels. We would each work on a carving, as I had done with my father.

3. Define teaching and learning roles. My role was to provide tools, show Sam how to plan and make his cuts artistically and safely, and give him pointers as he worked. His role was to literally dig in, and to use the tools safely. The goal was for him to complete his first carving. Initially he worked only at my table, so I could advise him on the best way to cut the wood and not himself. We worked together once a week. When he gained skill and confidence, he would take his emerging sculpture and some of my tools with him to work on his own between our sessions.

4. Give direct feedback. Sam and I agreed that I would give artistic feedback in addition to skill- building guidance. He had to alter his design several times to accommodate the wood’s characteristics. I wanted to be sure he would feel receptive to my suggestions for changes. He agreed to ask questions to help me know what he wanted to learn. I had not taught anyone to carve before, so this was valuable to me.

5. Measure progress. I broke the process into clear steps: planning the design, cutting accurately and safely, roughing out the design on the wood, carving the details, and putting a finish on the piece. We planned at the beginning of each step and I congratulated at the end of each. The final measurement was that he made a carving he was proud of.

6. Reward the team effort. This mentoring was inherently fun and rewarding because we were friends, and he created a very nice piece of art. To make Sam’s “graduation” special, though, I gave him a small set of tools for his own. This was over 30 years ago, and I hope he’s still using them.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chris Pye, Master Woodcarver and Masterful Mentor

Artists Mentoring Artists: The Six Building Blocks of Common-Sense Mentoring 
This article is a preview from my forthcoming book "Artists Mentoring Artists: The Six Building Blocks of Common-Sense Mentoring." 

Chris Pye, Master Woodcarver and Masterful Mentor.
With comments by Teresa Randolph and Beth White, fellow Chris Pye students.

I knew I’d learn a lot of technique at Chris Pye’s woodcarving class. He’d already e-mailed me that he could raise my carving a couple of steps, after looking at photos of some works-in-progress I’d sent him. Not a surprise. I've been carving for 40 years, shown the basics by my father when I was very young. Otherwise I am self-taught, and I’d taught myself some bad habits. I could get to my desired sculpture, but the hard way. I was completely surprised, though, to meet one of the most skilled mentors I've ever observed. Mentoring is the foundation of my consulting practice, and it’s always a delight to find myself in the mentee role.
Chris lives in a tiny hamlet in England at the Welsh border. He has been carving since 1975, and is a member of the prestigious Master Carvers Association. The Prince of Wales is a regular customer of his. He designs and carves, from whimsical to museum quality sculptural pieces, perfectly. His technique is so perfect, in fact, that he usually leaves his carvings straight from the chisel, i.e. not sanded. I've subscribed to his “TV workshops” for a while now, and my bedazzlement led me to take his class. (Chris Pye, Master Woodcarver) He comes to Maine once a year to teach at the Maine Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport.( Maine Center for Furniture Craftsmanship) Fellow students in the class agree that Chris is not only a world-class carver, but world-class teacher and mentor, a rare combination.
I developed the Six Building Blocks of Common-Sense Mentoring © based on many interviews and observations I've made over more than 30 years.These Building Blocks are the foundation of my book "Common-Sense Workplace Mentoring," available on Amazon. ("Common-Sense Workplace Mentoring") It distills the basics of every good mentoring system. Chris models each one of them. He is all about the student, not himself- the most fundamental characteristic of a fine mentor. The class was formatted as individual tutoring, Chris spending at least a couple of significant blocks of time each day with each student.

Building Block 1: Evaluate strengths, needs and aspirations individually. We learn uniquely. No two people bring exactly the same qualities. The development process is much more effective and efficient when it can be shaped to the person. Each student sent Chris ideas and designs before the class, so he got to know a little about each of our carving needs and styles in advance. He also got to know each of our personality styles as soon as the class began. I don’t know that he consciously assesses the latter. He is clearly sparked by genuine interest in who each student is. He had very different carving and personal conversations with each of the 12 of us. Resa says “Chris likes to jibe me. He told me I’m the kind of person who can take it. He tested my personality with a lot of kidding. Chris has a dry wit, and used my sense of humor as the vehicle to communicate high expectations. That’s the way I best hear critique.” Beth says “I would state what I thought I should do, and Chris would give ideas, but always with acknowledgment that I already knew what to do. He didn't want me to start carving my design before the class, because he had some structural suggestions. The final design was mine, of course, but influenced by his perspective. He respected my vision.” My own interaction with Chris tended to be a bit philosophical, a level at which I love to engage. He evidently does, too.

Building Block 2: Create opportunities to learn on the job. We learn by doing. Use the work space as the classroom. Learning is retained at a higher level when just-in-time and directly applied to the work. This entire workshop was on-the-job learning. Chris did a tiny amount of demonstration himself, at times when the group had in common something specific to learn. We all wanted to hear about sharpening tools correctly, for instance. Then he set us loose to practice on our own. We had diverse projects, goals, interests, and needs for attention. It was amazing to see him pulled 12 ways at once, big smile always, with absolutely full attention to each student. If his one-to-one work with someone looked like a point others could use, a crowd would gather. He set such a strong example for devoted and uninterruptable time that no one ever tried to divert his attention away from the primary object of it. He set the stage for us to pay such attention to each other. This was one of the most collegial and helpful groups I've ever been part of, even though we came with only one obvious thing in common and were together for only a week.

Building Block 3: Define teaching and learning roles. We learn with clear expectations. Set specific goals and responsibilities for the mentoring process, including content and pace. Review and revise continually to reflect progress. Chris knows when to watch and listen, when to give suggestions, and when to take up a tool and directly work on someone’s piece to demonstrate. Then he’d say “now you have a go at it.” He set high standards for each of our unique pieces, and general expectations to “clean up the fuzzy bits,” and keep sharpening those tools. I felt flattered that he only touched my sculpture once with a gouge, but he made sure he pointed out the places that needed technical attention. I knew exactly what he liked about my piece, and what needed more work. Resa, Beth and I agree that Chris is not egotistically attached to his way. He works with his students’ styles, and helps them find their own creativity in their own ways.

Building Block 4: Give direct feedback. We learn with encouragement. Mentoring is a two-way process. The partners need to exchange feedback, with emphasis on what is working well, openly and continually, to stay on track with each other and the learning goals. Each day, Chris spent significant blocks of feedback time with each student. He knew right away that I needed mentoring on technique. That was obvious. He also knew that I was clear on my overall design, even though the piece was only very roughed out and my intent was to let the details evolve. So he made suggestions about technique, and encouraged me that the piece was very sculptural. Was I fired up to hear that from such a craftsman and artist? Oh, yes. His feedback to each of us had to be completely direct and clear, or we would not have felt we were making the progress we needed. We had to know exactly how to improve, and feel confident at what we were already doing well in order to stay energized. It’s tiring and frustrating to be carving for 8 or 10 hours a day, but each of us showed up early or stayed late, or both, because we were indeed so energized.
Chris built in times for “formal” peer feedback, with a couple of sets of show-and-tell, with comments by everyone. Following his model of interest in each person’s work, students spent time looking at each other’s carvings, praising and offering help. Resa, Beth and I were the only students from Maine, and we've continued peer-mentoring monthly, keeping the spirit of learning with each other. We’re even adding a student from a prior year’s class to our group, so support extends beyond the bounds of just that one workshop.

Building Block 5: Measure progress. We learn when we build on success. Create incremental measurements, both formal and informal, to give the mentee and mentor frequent, meaningful marks of success. Chris continually coached each of us to move closer to our “prototypes,” whether those were photos, drawings, models, or in my case, staying true to the shape and spirit of the block of wood. Again, clear and direct feedback was the key. We had set the goals, he helped us meet them.

Building Block 6: Reward the team effort. We learn when we feel energized. Install a culture of mentoring by recognizing mentee and mentor efforts and successes. Make it rewarding and fun to teach and learn. I've already mentioned the elements of reward and recognition that were throughout the workshop. The group “show-and-tells” were wonderful opportunities for all of us to celebrate others’ ideas and work. And with applause. Chris gave praise continuously. We praised each other continuously. Rewarding effort is not a separate component of mentoring; it is woven into the fabric of the entire process.
When I told Chris I was writing this article, he was surprised. He doesn't see himself as mentoring. I have often found that the best mentors work in these ways just because it makes sense, and don’t see the power of how they approach others until I point it out. I hope he’s convinced that he indeed is a masterful mentor when he reads this.

Lost in the Wood You Tube video

In July of 2013, I had the great privilege and thrill of sharing my carvings with about 200 people at  Pecha Kucha Portland, Maine. This  six-minute video is a "re-enactment" of that presentation. It tells the story of my inspiration. I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Magnificent Crow: mahogany, sculpture, woodcarving

Crows are magnificent. This one is mahogany, and represents their simplicity of form and dignity of demeanor. It feels as smooth as I imagine their feathers would be if possible to stroke. It is approximately 21 inches long, 9 inches high.

The magnificent crow

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mahogany Shell Sculpture: woodcarving

I’m always looking for shells when I walk the beach, exquisite natural sculptures. This shell is 11" long, 4" wide. Stylized, smooth and wonderful to feel, like a real shell.