At my question, he explained that he was testing the hardness of the pieces of wood. If the test proved positive, the piece of driftwood was able to be successfully carved with a knife. Next I asked my dad what he planned to carve with this wood. He replied with two words: Santa Clauses.
This did not surprise me; we have several of his Christmas tree ornaments carved to the likeness of the popular Saint Nicholas. What did catch my interest was the chance to learn how to carve the said Christmas time character.
My carving background involved walking sticks back home, bamboo vases in Jamaica, and a carving Boy Scout merit badge from summer camp. Last Christmas my parents had given my brother and me a set of carving knives, a sharpening stone, and Kevlar gloves. I was excited to increase my skill level by using European resources and my new tools.
After collecting a bagful of potential material, we headed to the villa. The first step was to examine the natural appearance of the wood to distinguish the santa hat from his beard. Next my dad showed me how to make the face with a pencil outline. He carved notches for the eyes causing pronouncements for nose and checks. Once the face was roughed out, he worked on the upper part of the stick to make a pointed hat. The lower part was left alone to give the beard a natural look.
Dad then sanded the carving with several grades of sandpaper ascending from coarsest to finest. He progressed with polishing the wood with sea glass that we had also found washed up on the beach. He brushed the wood with a fine glaze of polyurethane to protect the wood and to meet the international custom regulations.
I jumped right in to the project asking my dad for advice along the way. He had high quality standards; ultimately through his mentoring I met his expectations. Surprisingly I went way beyond his quantity goals by carving thirty Santas total while on sabbatical.
Dad is now helping me market them to sell at the Quiet Creek shop and the upcoming Mother Earth News Sustainable Fair where I will be presenting a workshop on Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants. These funds will be used to purchase a digital camera to document the happenings at Quiet Creek and my future travels. Of course, I’ll be on the lookout for more driftwood wherever I go.