To attain my goals and my mission, was going to require taking chances. And, to take risks with my work would require that I be honest with myself. My confidence and self-esteem would have to be high and it would take courage, too! I took an inventory of my qualities (yeah, right!), to see if I had the right stuff to do this. Was my self-esteem and confidence relatively high? Did I have the courage to take chances out in public? Could I deal with rejection and failure? Can I get “egg on my face" and survive? Could I suffer through embarrassing moments? Could I eat a little “crow" along the way? The answer to all these questions was NO. . . I WANT MY MOMMY!
To take chances with my work, I would have to “go against the grain" (woodcarver, get it?) I would have to go off the beaten path. (I was already off everybody's beaten path) I really didn't know the answers to all these questions I asked myself, but I wanted to do what pleased me FIRST, and then hopefully others would like my work as well. There's a big difference in producing something that will never go before the public. It's quite another thing when you produce something for public show, etc.
I've always been a competitive person, and I don't like to lose at anything! Checkers; ping-pong; basketball; football; golf; tennis; cards. . . you name it. I don't like to lose, but if I do, I consider myself a good loser and a good sport. I don't go off throwing a temper-tantrum all over the county because I lost a silly game of checkers! (I just call my buddy in the Mafia. . . Vinnie Testasterone, to put out a contract on the person who beat me and it's all taken care)
I started carving wood, when I was in the ninth grade in middle school. In the wood shop I was taking, just about all the students were building projects such as a coffee table; bookcase; chairs and because all these projects were made of hardwood, they could be expensive. Because my parents didn't have much money for the class, I had to keep my projects affordable and simple.
My wood shop instructor had an on-going project of carving little animal characters, and he kept a few of them on his desk. (show-off) Small carvings which measured about 5-6 inches tall. . . a giraffe; dog; cat; elephant and so forth. They were inexpensive to make, and I liked the looks of them, so I wanted to try wood carving.
I got started on the animal pieces, and a few weeks after I completed a few pieces, I compared the same piece to my instructor's wood pieces. . . and, I was surprised! MY INSTRUCTOR'S WOOD PIECES WERE ALMOST AS GOOD AS MINE! (Just kidding!) Let the chips fall where they may, was the cry for the rest of the year and I completed the woodworking class.
Many years later, when I was thirty-something, I took wood carving up again. And, because I liked the little animals, I continued with them. I carved about a dozen pieces, and took them with me to the flea market, along with a lot ot other junk, and to get reaction from the public on the wood pieces. A woman stopped my my display and saw the little “critters" as she called them, and invited me to participate in an arts and crafts show in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
During this period of time, I went down to Old Town (Albuquerque), where there were several shops and galleries, to show business owners my work, and to see if I could sell my work on consignment, etc. I only visited one shop and I decided this wasn't for me. The shop owner liked my work, but she was interested in buying wood pieces of a southwestern nature. . . roadrunners; cowboys; bulls and so forth.
I decided very quickly that I was not going to spend the rest of my life carving roadrunners and bulls just to make a buck or two! I didn't go back to a shop again! I had already decided to do imaginative things, so I got started, and some of the ideas I came up were out in left field for sure, but these were the things that made happy FIRST and those pieces included:
Donut: This is a simple piece to carve, and this piece I never sold because I had so much fun with it over the years. A chocolate donut, complete with frosting on top and was about the same size as a real donut. I placed the “donut" in a Dunkin donuts sack, complete with tissue, and some people were amazed at how real it looked. The person reaching down into the sack to get the “donut" wasn't aware that it was made of wood, and they would always ask: “How old is this donut?" I had a lot of fun with it.
Little black bear cub in a high-chair: Over the years, this was my best seller! The little bear cub measured about an inch tall and the red and white high-chair measured about 5 inches tall. As soon as I placed one of these out on my display. . . to was gone! I would usually take about ten of these with me and they would all sell.
Lion sitting in a bathtub: This was my second best seller. At an art show, it didn't take long for this piece to disappear either.
Flu bug sick in bed with the flu! I figured if a person can get the flu, why can't a flu bug get the flu? So, I carved the little flu bug (about 2" long) out of redwood. I made a little bed out of masonite; complete with a tiny pillow and bed sheet. The little flu was covered with a blanket. And, the caption on a small piece of card stock read, “Flu bug sick in bed with the flu"
Caterpillar wearing a brown derby: About as silly as it gets, right? I carved a caterpillar and painted it lime green, and mounted it on a branch about 10 inches long. And yes, I took it to a show and put it on display. A couple of hours I sold it to a fellow, and I asked him why he bought it, and the answer was; “Because I like it!"
Volkswagen: I have no idea where this idea came from but I carved a Volkswagen in pine that had two front ends. (no trunk) Because most of my work was captioned, the caption read, “Make up your mind. . . are you coming or going?" I sold this piece to a woman, who said her boyfriend didn't know if he was coming or going half the time, so this piece was perfect for him.
A fawcett: The water fawcett was painted silver like the real thing, with a wood water drop coming out of it. The drop was painted a very light blue, and had a funny face on it. The caption on the very small piece of card stock read, “Whatever turns you on. . . or off!" I sold this piece to a woman whose husband was a plumber.
Friendly octopus; I saw a picture of an octopus on a billboard and I wanted one. So I carved one. The legs were cut out of half inch redwood and the body out of 2" redwood and all the pieces were glued together after they were carved. The octopus was painted a very dirty brown/dark green and it was shown at Octopus Car Wash for a while.
Skunk: This piece was painted back and white like a real skunk and carried a sign which read: “Help Stop Pollution!"
Basket Case: My wife bought some cookies that come in a small straw basket about 5" long and two inches high. I carved a female patient wearing hospital pajamas to fit the little basket and now I had my “Basket Case!"
These were a few of the over 200 different original wood carvings I produced over the years. And, as you can see, I took a lot of chances with my work. And, because I've been in the humor business most of my life, 90% of the pieces were cartoon-like characters in wood.
So, take a few chances with your work and just use caution and common sense. If you have to eat a little “crow" in the process once in a while. . . trust me. . . it doesn't taste so bad! Over the years, I've eaten a whole flock of “crow!"
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