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The Carver's Art

The Carver's Art: Crafting Meaning from Wood

Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Carver's Art
    Book Description:

    Chains carved from a single block of wood, cages whittled with wooden balls rattling inside -- all "made with just a pocketknife" -- are among our most enduring folk designs. Who makes them and why? what is their history? what do they mean for their makers, for their viewers, for our society? Simon J. Bronner portrays four wood carvers in southern Indiana, men who had been transplanted from the rural landscapes of their youth to industrial towns. After retiring, they took up a skill they remembered from childhood. Bronner discusses how creativity helped these men adjust to change and how viewers' responses to carving reflect their own backgrounds. By recording the narratives of these men's lives, the stories and anecdotes that laced their conversation, Bronner finds new insight into the functions and symbolism of traditional craft. Including anew illustrated afterword in which the author discusses recent developments in the carver's art, this new edition will appeal to carvers, scholars, and anyone interested in traditional woodworking.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4786-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Author’s Note to Paperback Edition
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  5. Illustration Credits
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. Prologue
    (pp. 1-15)

    My map didn’t tell me where I was as much as the com fields suspiciously looking over my shoulder, and just in front of me, homespun German-signed mailboxes waiting attentively. Stuck in rusted milkcans, the mailboxes were emblems of a German-American heritage combined with midwestern “down on the farm” spirit. The old hams and bucolic Catholic churches scattered throughout the area showed tradition’s weathered persistence here. This was southwestern Indiana, around Dubois (pronounced Do-Boys) County. I was headed toward Adyeville on the advice of an Indiana University professor who told me of a curious collection of carvings.

    I pulled up...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Part of You Is in a Carving
    (pp. 17-72)

    “WHERE had the time gone?” I thought. My watch ticked impatiently. It was late, but I didn’t want to leave. George Blume was speaking fast, in his usual staccato fashion, of a time he remembered when a man had to make everything from tools to toys, for himself. Suddenly, George npticed the dark around us. With disappointment in his voice, he said, “Well, I guess you’d best be going.”

    I nodded and began packing my gear. I had my arms full when I heard him think aloud to himself.

    “Yeah, that reminds me, yes sir, when I would make them...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Bet You Don’t Know How I Made This
    (pp. 73-125)

    “SO YOU’RE interested in woodcarving, huh? Well, I got something you'll like for sure,” Wandley Burch said.

    He appeared reserved, yet confident. He reached for a foot-long poplar chain with caged balls on either end. He draped it around his neck, grinned, and then handed it to me.

    “Bet you don't know how I made this!” he suddenly beamed.

    No glue or screws held the links. No seam or hidden joint surfaced. The links flowed. My eyes followed their lines as easily as if they were a river’s current. The chain was, as carvers like to boast “made out of...

  9. CHAPTER THREE How Do You Figure It, That Darn Stuff?
    (pp. 126-144)

    MIDNIGHT passed. Geogre Blume’s basement kept out the night air. Sawdust filled his nostrils as he sat at his basement workbench. In the morning, he would go to the factory. He didn’t have that many more days of work there before retirement, that many more days of making furniture for unseen customers.

    But now he carved for himself. The only sounds were the scraping and cutting of his tools and an occasional word from George about his nascent carving.

    “I’ll carve until I’m ready for bed,” he thought. “It shouldn’t be long.”

    He looked up at his wooden progeny. Chains...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 145-156)

    I ENDED my interviews where I began them—with George Blume. He moved more slowly now, and his hearing and eyesight had deteriorated. But his smile was quick as ever. It was too cold to talk on the porch, so we went into the living room. But inside, out of the open air he loved, George sat like an uninvited guest. “Well, you see, usually I’m outside or I just go in my room and that’s it,” he tried to explain. The house hardly told of his presence. A wooden fence he made lined the bottom of the Christmas tree,...

  11. Ten Years Later
    (pp. 157-176)

    “Aren’t those whimsies?’ the journalist from Country Home asks me, referring to the traditional carvings of chains and related forms.¹ “Hardly,” I bluntly reply, and add, “Have you talked to any carvers?” Attracting onlookers with their playfulness, the carvings often have serious messages when they are grasped; they become catalysts to conversation with the carver turned trickster or riddler. As the carvers predicted, with carved chains, cages, fans, canes, tools, and animals in hand, I think of their makers and the values they held dear. I listen attentively to the patterns of artists, old and young, narrating themselves in wood...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 177-184)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-203)
  14. Index
    (pp. 204-213)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 214-214)