What is Direct Carving?

Maori carvings of a man and a woman's face - New Zealand
Maori carvings of a man and a woman's face - New Zealand
Sphinx in front of Pyramid Giza at Cairo Egypt
Sphinx in front of Pyramid Giza at Cairo Egypt
Venus of Willendorf
Venus of Willendorf
A Definition

Direct Carving

To state what may be obvious, sculpture is three-dimensional art. It’s produced by various methods such as carving, modeling in clay, forming, shaping, casting, or assembling solid materials. All these methods, with the exception of carving, are additive in nature; that is, the sculpture is created by the addition of materials.

Carving is a subtractive form of sculpture; that is, material is taken away by chiseling, filing, or by other means.

With regard to carving, what does “direct carving” mean? What is “direct” as opposed to another type of carving? Well, since you asked…

Many sculptors refer to a model of what they intend to carve. A “Model” is defined as “a three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original,” according to Google Dictionary. The sculptor wishes for the completed carving to resemble the model. The outcome of the sculpture is therefore predetermined. For instance, if a sculptor is making a bust of a person, he will make his sculpture look as much like the person as possible by referring to some type of likeness (model), the actual person, or photographs. If a sculptor wishes to carve the likeness anything — a piece of fruit, a shoe, or any other object living or nonliving — he or she would refer to something that resembles that object. The sculpture is “modeled” after the object.

Direct carvers, on the other hand, do not have a predetermined idea of what the finished sculpture will look like. Instead, the direct carver works by using his or her own feelings and inclinations, carving forms that he or she finds pleasing. The sculpture is carved from what is within the sculptor, from something that is intangible.


Carol Griffin carving

I work as a direct carver because it’s a very creative way for me to work. Direct carving means I do not use any models of what I intend to carve. Rather than having a clear idea of what I want a finished piece to look like, I allow the stone or wood to suggest and direct what I do as I work with it.

Carol C. Griffin
Digging Deeper

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Truth of Materials

An important element in direct carving is closely examining the material to discern its natural characteristics. For instance, knots in wood, fissures in stone, or color and shape variations can occur naturally in the material. The direct carver takes all these characteristics into account, choosing to highlight or minimize them as he or she sees fit. In other words, the direct carver allows the natural properties of the material to influence the work. In the process of direct carving, there is a type of dialog that takes place between the sculptor and the material. The ideal is to allow the material to “speak” to the sculptor during the carving process.

A direct carved sculpture tells something about the artist, since it can reveal aspects of the artist’s personality and feelings. Direct carving is considered to be a very creative way to work. It is a journey where the final destination is unknown.

Carol Griffin is Featured in the Harmon-Meek Gallery
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