Working with wood is a hobby I have recently taken up. Safe to say, it has had a profound effect on me.
Rishi Valley School, my alma mater, has a carpentry studio. While I was there, I had the opportunity to make a wooden sculpture of a fish. The journey of woodwork transformed me, kindling a passion in me. It made me discover many things about myself.
My friend’s father was the carpentry teacher at the time. Seeing my interest in woodwork, he showed me images of a Yugoslavian fish sculpture and suggested that I replicate it.
When in pursuit a new art form, a good mentor is essential. Guidance when exploring the unknown is what will determine whether that undertaking is worth it or not.
This piece had a textured body, meticulously hand-carved. Pursuing it would push me out of my comfort zone, making me develop a new skill. Motivated, I took the project.
Tracing on a slab of neem wood, I cut the rough shape out using a bandsaw. Then, I moved to the angle grinder and files to smooth the edges and give the sculpture its overall structure.
With a pencil, I drew the designs on the piece and carved out the texture with a paring gouge. I initially used a mallet with the gouge, resorting to hand power only for the more refined touches.
Using a v-shaped gouge and a mallet, I etched the textured pattern across the length of the body.
Forming the fish’s mouth and tail was tricky, requiring utmost focus. I spent a couple of days with it, removing small bits of wood at a time with the gouge.
Hand-carved woodwork typically does not require sanding. It is the slight blemishes that give the piece its unique look.
The finish I used was double-boiled linseed oil. I applied many coats on the sculpture, letting the oil soak in for a while before wiping off the excess.
When in pursuit a new art form, a good mentor is essential. Guidance when exploring the unknown is what will determine whether that undertaking is worth it or not. I was fortunate to have a skilled teacher to advise me as I dabbled with woodwork.
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This project took me close to a year to complete. There were many times when I felt like giving up, thinking it was not worth it. But in hindsight, I am glad I kept going, for I learned many things.
I constantly had to tell myself that each bit of wood chiselled off made a difference. Slowly, I grew to enjoy the slow-paced rhythm. It required constant dedication, working every day with the same enthusiasm.
Art is a pursuit for those who are willing to stay the course. It cannot be done half-heartedly.
Woodwork has secured a place in my heart. It is only the beginning of a passion I will eagerly pursue.
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2 thoughts on “Yugoslavian Fish Sculpture”
Lovely read! And so nice to see these ‘moon shot’ hobbies are still taught by caring mentors! Carpentry is not for the faint hearted! Spent a year in Junior school before I was assigned to Weaving, as Dad was a textile man, and my regret is high!
I still have a Dremel rotary sander, which you could use for delicate touches like the fish mouth. It’s yours, if you have time to pursue this!
Ohh wow, uncle…I had no idea. I am definitely taking you up on that rotary sander offer someday!