A recent client request caused me to dig through my archives for these wooden bowl carving photos and reminded me that I am long overdue to write a post about it!
Back in August of 2013 (wow, where has the time gone!), I had the pleasure of watching a master carver craft this magnificent bowl from a piece of wood in Lac La Hache, BC. I was completely blown away by the process and especially the end result and had to capture the magic.
Lighting for this one initially looked tricky since the only modifier I had with me was a 5-in-1 reflector and we were stuffed near the back of a large garage with minimal outside light coming in. On top of that we had quite a mixture of fluorescent, incandescent, and natural light from a small window. To get anything usable I had to bring my own light. I managed to rig up the reflector onto a dolly (and at one point a ladder) and angle it so I could bounce my on-camera flash (a Canon 430-EX II) off the reflector and back towards the artisan and his work. Being on a dolly for most of the shoot I was able to easily wheel it into new positions as he moved from location to location or change position. In some cases I had it standing straight up on the dolly, similar to bouncing off a wall, while in other cases I angled it to get into those hard to reach places.
For the shots of the finished wooden bowls I suspended the reflector from a ladder above the bowls and slightly to the right. Just out of frame in the shot above I had a bungee cord hooked on the little eyelet of the reflector and the other end hooked on the top of the ladder to let it hang out away from the uprights.
The Carving Process
A wooden bowl carving is not something I expected to require such a high level of finesse or detail. The creative process is really quite amazing. From selecting the right section of the tree to rough shaping, hollowing, and detailing it was always interesting and engaging. Being able to see things like a knot or gnarled piece of bark on the exterior of a tree stump and envisioning it as a key aesthetic element in a finished piece takes some real talent and I’m not sure it’s the kind of talent that can be learned.
Since I was only able to join the process at select points I don’t have photos of a single bowl start to finish, but rather key segments of the wooden bowl carving process for of several bowls.
Working quickly during the creation process was key for me because he’s a very focused individual and doesn’t like to wait around for others such as myself to set things up while he’s in the zone, crafting away. Who can blame him. When you’re experiencing “flow” there’s nothing like it and breaking even for a second can snap you back to reality and completely break the stream of creativity.
I was really blown away with the beauty of the exposed imperfections in the wood. Texture and even colours like purples and reds come seeping out of the pieces, almost like sap, when other sections of it are stripped away. The viewers focus is immediately drawn to these areas. It’s almost… mesmerizing.