International Woodcarver of the Year 2012 archive

Friday 26 October 2012

The entries have been shortlisted and judged and now it is time to reveal the winners of IWCOTY 2012...

Gallery

With the winter months well and truly here, it is time for us at Woodcarving HQ to bring you the winners of this year's International Woodcarver of the Year Competition - a task that brings us considerable pleasure.

This year's judges - Mark Baker, Peter Benson and Michael Painter - had some really tough decisions on their hands and spent many hours poring over entries. It is worth noting that 2012's IWCOTY was launched as an online-only competition, which although very convenient for some, was less so for others. We are aware that in our attempts to widen our net of entrants, we may have made it harder for some people and thank all those friends and relatives that were called upon to share their technical expertise. We will be taking these technical complications into consideration for the next competition. If you have any comments regarding this please get in touch.

Thank you

We'd like to say a huge thank you to all our talented readers. It is a joy to see your wonderful creations that get more diverse and impressive with every year. It is an incredibly difficult feat selecting so few winners from so many talented entries.

We must also thank our sponsors for their generous support of the competition with prizes that will be undoubtedly put to good use for those lucky enough to scoop the prizes.

Categories

As well as the overall International Woodcarver of the Year prize to the value of £500 - awarded to the carver the judges feel has submitted the best carving, regardless of category - there are a variety of categories and sub-categories with first, second, third and highly commended awards in each. So without further ado, here's our 15-page International Woodcarver of the Year special. Enjoy!

In the round - sponsored by Wivamac

Alexander Grabovetskiy - 'Wall Decoration' - first prize

This piece is also the winner of our overall 'International Woodcarver of the Year' award, which is sponsored by Classic Hand Tools

When he was just a young boy of six in the Russian town of Dimitrovgrad, Alexander was taught basic woodcarving techniques by his grandfather. This brief mentoring was the beginning of a life-long career for him. When he was 16, he impressed professional carver Vladimir Tokarev enough to make Alexander his apprentice. There, under the expert's professional tutelage, he honed his woodworking art until the Soviet Government arrested him and sent him to prison due to his Christian faith and refusal to enter the Red Army.

He had to survive in jail until his release aged 21. Over these three years he started his woodworking business from prison, making furniture and kitchen sets. After his release, it was impossible to find work so he began his own woodworking business. In 1996, with his wife Nadia and 10-month-old son Mark, Alexander immigrated as a political refugee to the USA.

Nowadays Alexander carves everyday; he loves woodcarving. He carves from 6.00am-11.00pm without realising what time it is! As for his style, he works in sculpture, high relief, low relief, architectural and ornamental modes. Alexander says, "Give me wood and I will do anything with it - almost!"

To make this intricate wall decoration, Alexander only used hand tools to complete the detail - no rotary power tools were used. He particularly likes Auriou, Ashley Iles and Pfeil chisels and finds these best for completing his pieces.

Alexander did not sand this piece as he believes that tool marks make a masterpiece. "It is the same as brush marks on canvas in fine art," he says.

As far as techniques are concerned, he takes exactly the same approach as those employed by master woodcarvers centuries ago. He loves the work of Grinling Gibbons as well as his techniques. Alexander uses an extreme undercutting technique to bring shadows into play. He tells us that he is now a big fan of wall carving. In his opinion, the shadows created in woodcarving are very important; in fact he believes they are more important than even the design of the carving. When he draws his design, from the beginning he is thinking about creating light and shadow.

Similarly, no finish was used on this wall decoration. The piece measures 915mm wide and 150mm deep.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

I liked the overall design and, from what I could see from the photo, the quality of the carving is outstanding and well deserving of first place. There has been a huge amount of work involved and it shows. The design of the whole piece flows with each curve and twist complementing the next.

Michael Painter

Competently executed, showing not only patience but amazing determination to complete such a project.

Leo Pruijt - 'Self Portrait' - second prize

This Norwegian carver began to carve lifelike portraits of men and women some years ago, guided by the books of Ian Norbury. Starting from the best photos captured from front and side view, he composed templates for the profiles. At this stage, the sculpture needed to be designed and it is not just a matter of printing photographs. The photos needed to be selected, aligned and corrected and the integration of the portrait into the base had to be designed. In contrast to Ian Norbury's approach, he positioned the head diagonally in the square block of wood, to get the biggest carving possible out of it.

To complete his 'Self Portrait' Leo worked with many hand tools, mostly Pfeil gouges, except for the pupils, for which he used a Foredom flex shaft motor and high speed cutters. He finished the carving using tools and sandpaper. The carving took over 100 hours in total.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

Heads are not easy to get right but this is well proportioned and very well executed. The finish looks excellent and all the cuts clean. Whether it is a good likeness I don't know, but it certainly is a pleasing carving.

Michael Painter

This carving shows considerable understanding and observational skill of the human face.

Eleanor Burke 'The Mariner' - third prize

Made in black walnut (Juglans nigra) 'The Mariner' was roughed out with large gouges and a carving mallet. The detail was added using smaller tools and the surface finish achieved with shallow gouges, veiners and V-tools before getting three coats of tung oil. Eleanor believes that creating in wood is a quest beyond the physical manipulation of steel and fibre. After untold hours on this piece she achieved what she wanted and is happy with the carving.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

Another very good head well carved. A little more attention to delicate detail and texture would have made this an outstanding piece.

Michael Painter

Vigorous and full of character portraying a man for all weathers.

Luc Baert - 'Hot Pants' - commended

Luc's project began when his neighbour wanted to get rid of a partially hollow trunk of poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and asked if he could do anything with it, knowing Luc did some woodcarving.

He started to create the carving by sawing the block in half and kept the 'good' side. Next, he hollowed it out and got rid of the decayed wood using a chainsaw and an Arbortech attachment. The trunk split into two branches and when turned upside down, Luc saw that it could be two thighs so decided to make the back of a female figure. As the piece of wood was smaller Luc chose to let the shape be defined by what hot pants and a summer top would cover - after having seen a picture in a magazine. I didn't want a straight line for the sides, so I created curves that are more or less the centre line of a person when seen from the side.

To achieve the smooth surface, most of the finishing was done using an electric sander. Where necessary the job was done by hand and WOCA Master Oil White was applied to the wood.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This appears to be well carved and carefully finished.

Michael Painter

Well executed work, confident approach for hollowing out the timber at the back.

Jaroslav Kybak - 'Delicate Rose' - commended

Slovakian woodcarver Jaroslav Kybak is quick to stress the importance of sharp chisels for completing carvings as delicate as this rose successfully. He makes a variety of his own chisels in different sizes and completed this piece by first drawing a simple sketch on to the wood he selected. This simple sketch allowed him to see the entire idea unfurl in his mind. Next, he gradually added shape to the flowers. When the shape was finished, he started to sand the piece starting with 220 grit abrasive and ending up at 400 and then sanded the stem and leaves of the rose in a similar fashion.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is a beautifully executed piece showing great care and attention to detail. I liked the delicacy of the whole piece so often lacking in carvings of flowers. In other company this would have been a winner.

Michael Painter

Wonderful tool control with regard to the rose but perhaps a little rigid with the overall design.

Birds and animals - sponsored by Woodworks Craft Supplies

Steve Heath - 'Rhinos' - first prize

Steve began by sketching an Indian rhino cow and calf then making a maquette from Plasticine to gain a sense of their shape and the way they move. He wanted to convey the paradox of an apparently armour-plated female Indian rhino, weighing over a tonne, gently and patiently encouraging her calf to take its first steps.

The rhinos were carved from a single sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) block, mostly using a combination of hand and power tools. The rhinos were finished using 120, 240, 320 and 400 grit sandpaper, prior to applying sanding sealer and beeswax.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is a pleasing piece, well carved showing evidence of long and careful finishing. The treatment of the body of both animals shows good observation and attention to detail.

Michael Painter

Well observed stylised work.

Michael Amos - 'Preening Pintail Duck' - second prize

This duck was carved in lime (Tilia vulgaris). All the ducks Michael creates are life sized.

He first drew the basic shape onto a block of lime which was then cut out with a bandsaw, but in most cases, he cuts and carves the head separately. He carved the details of the head, the beak and feathers, then inserted glass eyes. Michael carved the body with the aid of knives and chisels. Having got the basic shape right, he then drew in and carved the feather groups - on this piece the tail feathers and the feathers around the beak were carved separately and then inserted. The piece was then sanded down until smooth using sandpaper and a rotary grinding tool. When this was complete, Michael drew on the quills and started using a burning pen. Next, he attached the head.

The next stage was to paint with sanding sealer to seal the wood in preparation for painting.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

In my opinion a carved and painted duck needs to be very realistic and pleasant to look at. Attention has been paid here to making this an interesting piece and much attention paid to correct detailing and painting.

Mark Baker

I think the movement in this piece brings it to life. Well observed and hard to pull off technically. Very much deserving of a place in the winners’ section.

Benjamin Nichol - 'Diving Kingfisher' - third prize

Benjamin was inspired to try to carve a kingfisher in mid-dive by a card he was given with a high-speed photo of a kingfisher entering the water. He used this picture as a basis for the pose he wanted to recreate in his carving. In order to get anatomical accuracy in the carving, he visited the Natural History Museum at Tring to measure the taxidermy specimens on show.

The kingfisher is carved from one piece of lime wood (Tilia vulgaris). The profile was cut on a bandsaw and then roughed using a series of gouges. A Foredom flexible shaft rotary tool and various burrs were used to carve the final shape and define the different feather groups. The wing feathers were carved to shape using a fine pointed carving knife. The sockets for the glass eyes were drilled in the carving. Epoxy putty was used to fix the glass eyes in place.

Feather texturing was mainly produced by pyrography. Coarser feather texturing was produced using a rotary tool and a range of small grinding stones.

The main challenge with this carving was to produce a strong joint to the base through the beak of the kingfisher. This was done by producing a groove up the inner face of the lower beak mandible.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

I thought the bird had been very well carved and I liked the way it had been painted. I am not too sure about the base though, which lets the carving down.

Michael Painter

Clever use of the projected shadow as the base, good choice of timber.

Steve Heath - 'Hump-backed Whale' - commended

This male humpback whale breaching is carved from lime wood (Tilia vulgaris) using traditional hand tools. It is finished with sandpaper, gesso, acrylic paint and beeswax. The fins were carved separately and attached using mortise and tenon joints for strength.

Steve comments that he has been fascinated by whales and dolphins for many years and the freedom, intelligence and mystery that characterises their lives.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

I liked this carving - it has plenty of action and appears to be well painted. The presentation was well thought out.

Michael Painter

A delightful piece of work, full of action.

Relief - sponsored by Two Cherries

Trevor Metcalfe - 'The Old Homestead'- first prize

To create his carvings, Trevor finds something he would like to carve, draws it and sticks a copy to the timber then carves through it whilst studying the original.

'The Old Homestead' is a relief carving in lime (Tilia vulgaris) with an oak (Quercus robur) frame. He took the picture from a Christmas card showing an old house interior.

Trevor is 81-years-old and has been carving for the last 20 years. He gets great pleasure from carving and hopes to continue his hobby for many years to come!

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This was a very difficult design to get right and the carver made a very good effort with all the complicated perspective. Despite the few mistakes that catch the eye, it has been very well done and all cuts appear to be very cleanly cut and finished.

Michael Painter

Superb awareness of perspective in a shallow relief.

Milena Rusinova - 'Wall Carving in the Byzantine Renaissance style' - second prize

Milena used walnut (Juglans regia) to create this traditional carving made in the Byzantine Renaissance style. There are 12 icons in total, all from the New Testament filled with floral decoration and other antique items. The panels measure up

to 200mm deep.

Much of the work is hand carved, but Milena also used some power tools such as a router and a drill where it was helpful.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is a very impressive piece showing an enormous amount of patience and effort. It is difficult to see the quality of this work in a photograph.

Mark Baker

A classical piece of work that deserves a place in the winner's section. Nice detail and design.

Duane Cartwright - 'The Dragons in Love' - third prize

This piece is carved in recycled oak (Quercus robur) and was originally a headboard from an old bed.

After transferring the design onto the wood, Duane drilled out the waste wood to use the scrollsaw to cut out the inner parts of the knotwork and dragons. Next he used the bandsaw to cut out the outside of the design.

After the cutting out, Duane used gouges to take down the knotwork and carve the wings and dragons. He used a shallow fishtail gouge and a Ray Gonzales skew to carve the knotwork.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is a well-carved piece of work of good design and execution. All tool work appears to be well carried out and the overall impression is of a high-class piece of work.

Mark Baker

I love the design and the detail. A skilled piece of carving that is created from a difficult wood which does not always hold fine detail well.

Martin Anderson - 'Cradle Mountain' - commended

Martin started by sketching the design onto a 40mm Huon pine (Lagarostrobus franklinii) plank and marked the required depths for each part of the carving, using a router to rough out these depths. He then carved the landscape of 'Cradle Mountain' using a verity of gouge chisels for the sky and the mountain, and finished off the mountain with a veiner and a Dremel. He carved the boathouse using a flat chisel, a V-chisel and undercut and textured this area with the Dremel. The tree, rocks and remaining background were shaped with a combination of gouges and bent-shaft chisels with added Dremel texturing.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This has been well carved with good attention to detail and careful finishing. With a little more care for finer details and definition this could be an outstanding carving.

Michael Painter

This piece includes lovely small details throughout such as the paw prints around the frame.

Caricature - sponsored by Woodcarver's Supply Inc

Bill Bronstein -'Buster' - first prize

Bill tells us that he carves for three to six hours a week and started the carving earlier last year and completed it in July this year. The carving is three laminations of basswood (Tilia americana) with a mahogany (Khaya ivorensis) base, finished with boiled linseed oil. The base was made using a tablesaw and a router but the piece was created using just hand work: chisels, gouges, knives and sandpaper - no rifflers. The skin is finished with sanding; everything else has a tooled finish.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This has been well carved and beautifully finished. Although not a pretty face it is full of character making the whole carving one that I would happily put on my mantelpiece.

Michael Painter

Accomplished work, full of character portraying a cheeky, menacing expression.

Dale Woodward - 'Victorian Delivery' - second prize

Dale's process behind creating 'Victorian Delivery' is the same that he and his wife use for all their Santa carvings. They come up with a basic idea of how the Santa should look. From this, Dale's wife will do a watercolour rendering of their idea. From the watercolour, Dale makes a clay model so he can work out the details in 3D. From the clay model Dale then carves the Santa from a single block of wood.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

With so many carved and painted Santas about it is difficult to produce something different. This, however, has a character of its own, it has been well carved and carefully painted. A little more action is present than one normally finds.

Mark Baker

I must admit to being somewhat wary of Santas as they can be a bit cheesy. This piece, however, is in a whole different league. This is excellent and I keep coming back to look at it again and again.

Claudie Lavallee - 'Tiny Baby' - third prize

To begin her carving, Claudie drew the idea for the carving and made a clay model. She had the chance to learn to make clay models with Fred Zavadil in 2010. This method helps her to plan her work carefully, especially when some elements are carved separately, as is the case with this piece. The car seat and the pram have been carved separately. Claudie used Klean Klay, wire-end modelling tools and polished hardwood tools.

With this project, Claudie was worried that the woman's leg up in the air would be fragile and break easily so she decided to laminate a piece of wood with the grain in the opposite direction. To carve, she used gouges and carving knives. Claudie lightly sanded the work and sealed the carving with a mix of polyurethane varnish and paint thinner. She applied some colours using thinned oil paints and once they were thoroughly dried, she applied some acrylic washes to some areas. She also used acrylic paints for the eyes and matt varnish was applied to protect the piece.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is a pleasing carving with a different twist. Most caricature carvers fight shy of carving caricatures of women as they certainly aren't flattering in the main. This has a charm of its own.

Michael Painter

A well observed insight into everyday life.

Rusty Johnson - 'Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!' - commended

Rusty carved the coyote and barrel cactus from basswood (Tilia americana) with the cactus spines being made from toothpicks. The base is a section of a cypress (Taxodium distichum) knee. The pieces were painted with transparent watercolour.

Judges'comments

Peter Benson

This has been well carved with good attention to detail and careful finishing. With a little more care for finer details and definition this could be an outstanding carving.

Mark Baker

A classic piece of caricature carving that made me laugh. Well-done and humorous.

Knife Work - sponsored by Flexcut

David Stanley - 'Birds' Lovespoon

David starts by designing his lovespoons as a plan view drawing; he takes a print from this and attaches it with spray adhesive to the timber. The outline shape and fretted parts are cut on a scrollsaw. The intended profile of the spoon is then pencilled in on the side of the blank.

The tools David uses for the carving work are Pfeil knives, Stubai palm tools, scalpel blades, homemade chisels made from music wire, needle files and some diamond coated rifflers. For final finishing he uses a range of abrasive paper pieces up to 1,200 grit and beyond.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is a well-produced lovespoon and all the cuts appear to be very cleanly executed. The design is pleasing and the overall effect is one of quality.

Mark Baker

This is an excellent lovespoon. The detail is intricate and crisp and draws the viewer in to look even closer. Well executed indeed.

Pyrography - sponsored by Razertip

Ted Boothroyd - 'Magpie on Toy Truck'

With this carving, Ted gathered as much information as possible, mostly through the internet, including a wealth of photos. From these images he made some preliminary drawings, then came up with a simple, stylised design.

Ted found a block of basswood (Tilia americana) that would accommodate head, body and tail as a single piece, and drew his design directly onto it. He followed the usual process of using a bandsaw first, then bringing the wood to a recognisable shape. He used his RAM micro-motor with a variety of burrs for the detail work on head, back, throat and breast along with a couple of Flexcut knives. The tarsus and toes were made from metal wire and Kulis Karvit's epoxy and hardener combination. The glass eyes were purchased.

Ted used a woodburning unit for all the feather details on the primaries, secondaries, tertials and tail. Touch-ups on the head and underside were also done using pyrography.

Once the carving was done he tackled the painting, using Americana acrylics, a wide range of brushes, and a careful observation to his research material.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This was a difficult category to assess as it is not always clear whether pyrography has been used or not. The feathering on this piece was well done, if not immediately evident, and warranted this award.

Mark Baker

As Peter says, the pyrography is very well done indeed. I love the magpie, and it resting on a child's toy is intriguing. I must admit to not having liked the truck to start with but now can imagine this bird coming into the garden and resting on such a thing as it has a look around.

Power carving - sponsored by King Arthur Tools

Luc Baert - 'Hot Pants'

Luc used a chainsaw and Arbortech power carving unit to initially shape this piece. We imagine he must have had quite a job on his hands to achieve this without removing too much of the beautiful wood's natural shape.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

Although not immediately recognised as an example of power carving, this is a wonderful illustration of how power carving can be used with finesse.

Mark Baker

This is such a dramatic and delicate piece. You look at it from the back and it looks solid, but as you move round the piece you can see its finesse and delicacy; very clever indeed.

Colour - sponsored by Flutterby Crafts

Michael Amos - 'Preening Pintail Duck'

Michael painted his duck with diluted gesso and applied the acrylics in very thin washes and builds up the colour gradually.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

Of all the carvings that involved the use of colour, I felt that this was the best. In my limited experience the colour appears to be realistic and it was certainly well done.

Mark Baker

This is a stunning example of bird carving. The detail and colouring is superb and the finish is just excellent.

Hand carving - sponsored by Pfeil

Jaroslav Kybak - 'Delicate Rose'

Slovakian woodcarver Jaroslav Kybak makes a lot of his own chisels but he also uses Pfeil and Abegglen varieties. He comments on the importance of sharp tools and the sharpening process when hand carving.

Judges' comments

Peter Benson

This is the most difficult award to present as there were so many carvings that were extremely well carved. I chose this piece because of the fineness of the work and the numerous areas where there was potential for disaster. The quality of the work speaks for itself.

Mark Baker

The detail in this rose head is exquisite. You have to go a long way to find anything this detailed and no doubt it took ages to create this lifelike effect.


Tegan Foley

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International Woodcarver of the Year 2012

International Woodcarver Of The Year 2012

Alexander Grabovetskiy - Wall Decoration - won First Prize