At the aWay station two dogs helped out by whittling alongside us arguably more dexterous whittlers and created quite interesting works – at least to me. Clearly dogs are a different species – or maybe I would have come up with something similar if I was limited to my sharpened canines.
In my beach wanderings of late I’ve been collecting naturally occurring whittles. They are just driftwood pieces, but somehow they look as if they were more carefully shaped than by the random processes of water, wind, sand, sun,
I had a great visit to San Diego State University last weekend. I got to spend time with Matt Hebert who did his MFA at CCA through the Furniture Program a ways back and is now an Assistant Professor at SDSU where he works with the incredible Prof. Wendy Maruyama – who used to teach at CCA!
I also got to spend time with some of the graduate and undergrad students there. We got some serious whittling done together and Matt and I worked on a series of digitally manifested versions of one of my aWay station whittlings. Manual and automated whittling and various translations thereof.
Matt sent me this sweet little video that he compiled capturing some of our activities.
Cheyenne – Once Upon a Time in the West – Sergio Leone
The Headlands Worriers jammin’
A great group of people came out and spent time with me in the aWay station in August. Friends, colleagues, fellow artists in residence, headlands staff and interns. People from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, England and all over the US.
A total of 50 whittlings were made by more than 40 people (and three dogs!). Some spent 2-3 hours in the aWay station, some spent days!
I’ve am building an archive of all the whittles on the aWay station page which you can get to by clicking the link at the top of the page or from any aWay station post by clicking on the first mention of the aWay station.
If your piece is incorrectly cited please let me know. All the pieces are now en-route back to their creators – dispersed across the globe.
Gabriel Russo and me whittling at Whittling Soiree #2
Some visitors to the aWay stationhave asked me to define whittling. To paraphrase one old time whittler “The difference between carving and whittling is that for carving you need equipment and talent, for whittling all you need is a knife and time”.
Brian Karl out here at the Headlands suggests that I call it ‘worrying’. I like that!
But my wife Sandra loves the connotation of lightness and ease that comes with ‘whittling’. Perhaps resulting from the only whittling metaphor common in English, ‘to whittle away the hours’.
For me, the attraction to whittling comes from over 25 years of woodworking – making things that require a huge amount of planning and upfront design work and then hours and hours of painstaking construction using a huge variety of hand tools, machines and jigs. It’s incredibly refreshing and liberating to sit down for an afternoon with a small piece of wood (a piece that I would regularly discard in my studio), a single sharp knife and my hands and mind, to worry or whittle out a form for which I have no preconceived notion or plan.
I think back over 100′s of thousands of years of humans doing something similar; two stones, a sharpened stone edge and a stick, a blade of bronze or iron or steel. Its feels so natural and so strange – both at the same time. Strange in that few people in our culture and our time are engaged in this direct process of tool on material at all. Least of all the meditative act of working a piece of natural material with a single, simple but versatile tool.
I love the way the final outcomes vary so much from person to person. Its tempting to put on the psychoanalyst’s hat – or pipe.
So many of the forms feel so good in your hand, like the handle of a sweet tool. It’s as if they are ‘of’ the hand.
I’m excited to see how much of this inter-connectedness of the hand, the tool and the material can be carried into other objects or images created from these simple little sculptures.