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  • Shawn Cipa

The Spark of an Idea - a Hand carved Santa

When I am not working on specific commission carvings, most of my carving ideas coming from many hours of doodling and sketching, when my mind is mostly engaged elsewhere, such as attending an online meeting at the office (yes, I possess a 9-to-5 corporate occupation), which of course, are at home now because of the Pandemic restrictions. Sketching helps me to focus on the task at hand, especially when listening to a group of others speak or share a presentation. This sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but somehow, if my hands are occupied, my mind can be focused elsewhere.

Of course, not everything I sketch or doodle is worth a crap, but once in a while I hit something which I will save, and expound upon later when I have time. The example I will share is one of those doodles that has led to something cool. As my fans and customers know, I carve many folk art style Santa figures and I am always looking for a new way to present that. This drawing came to me on a scrap of paper a few months ago:

Most of my quick sketches are quite small, which helps me to see the overall shape of the design quite easily, in fact, this sketch is larger than most of my past successes. I have found over and over again that the hardest part of design creation is to capture the overall shape, whether it be a Santa, a Fire-breathing dragon, a cute little bunny, or whatever. Once the shape has been successfully established and executed, the surface details come much more easily to me.

I then take the tiny rendering, scan it, enlarge to my liking, print, and refine the details on a light table in order to create a pattern to apply to the wood. The end result is shown below, measuring about 14.5” in height.

This particular Santa is the on-foot traveling type, suggesting the time before the sleigh and reindeer were brought into popularity. I was looking for a highly stylized design, with an exaggerated hunched over figure, bent with many miles of heavy weight, find his way by candlelight. The curly-cue hat, which has become a bit of a trademark from me, and multi-colored sack both add to the whimsical nature of this piece.

Anyway, hope you enjoy! Stay home, be safe, and take care!





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