Chip Carving

I knew Roelke McKenna needed to accompany Chloe and Mom to Decorah in Heritage of Darkness. Signing him up for a woodworking class wasn’t hard, either; I’d already established in an earlier book that he enjoying carving. The question was:  what style of carving should he pursue?

Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’s collection includes exquisite pieces of different styles. The museum’s workshop schedule offers lots of diversity as well.

Vesterheim Gallery

Acanthus carving, featuring ornate and flowing leaf designs, is perhaps the most popular style. Acanthus carving dates back centuries. The style of relief carving started in Greece and spread to other area.  

Vesterheim Gallery

Chip carving takes a different approach. Small, precise cuts produce elaborate geometric designs. (They remind me of quilt patterns.)

Vesterheim Gallery

 

Vesterheim Gallery

Some wood carvers produce figures…

Vesterheim Gallery

…or spoons.

Vesterheim Gallery

Which style was right for Roelke? He’s really not a free-flowing kind of guy. He does appreciate precision and order. I decided that chip carving best suited his personality.

I turned to Vesterheim’s chip carving instructor, Ellen Macdonald, for help.

Ellen Mcdonald

She helped me understand the basics of chip carving. We also talked about what Roelke would have experienced in a week-long class.

Ellen Mcdonald chip carving

One of the things many carvers like about this style is that is requires only simple tools, and is very portable.

Ellen Mcdonald chip carving

Ellen’s work is gorgeous. It was easy to imagine Roelke aspiring to such craftsmanship.

Ellen Mcdonald chip carving

Roelke ran a finger over his work. Geometry…maybe that was it. His cousin Libby had called him “rigid” more than once. He preferred “meticulous.” Either way, the precision of chip carving appealed to him.

 …He wanted to learn how to design and carve rosettes. He wanted to design and carve rosettes with, as his classmate Lavinia had observed earlier, stunning energy and symmetry.  And maybe, if Chloe played her cards right, he’d carve something special just for her.

Ellen Mcdonald's candleplate

Vesterheim is open year-round, so you can visit anytime and tour the exhibits.  Click HERE if you’d like more information about the museum’s folk-art classes.

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2 Responses to “Chip Carving”

  1. Darlene Fossum-Martin Says:

    I have been chip carving for almost two years now and it is so captivating, especially when you hear the ‘click’ of the wood chip giving way!
    Ellen is a very patient and talented instructor and craftswomen and Kathleen an awesome writer and craftswomen as well. Kathleen taught a writing workshop here at Vesterheim that was very appreciated by several.
    Great combination. And yes, after reading the book this was the perfect carving class for Roelke.
    Ellen is offering a beginning chip carving class Nov. 7-9. Come join us and see how captivating and simple chip carving is.
    And, you can walk in the footsteps of Chloe.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Darlene, I was honored to teach at Vesterheim–and the weekend was great fun! I’ve taken lots of classes there over the years now, and every one has been wonderful. I hope some readers decide to give chip carving–or one of the other folk arts you offer–a try!

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