Carving the Dragon’s Head and Tail
Written By: Deb Legree
This carving workshop was a pilot project; the brainchild of well-known carver Eric Neighbour who has taught carving to more than 4,000 people. The project originated from watching the dragon boats on race day, looking so proud with their beautiful heads and tails. Eric thought: “I bet some of those teams would like to make their own boat decorations”. Thoughts and Observations from a Member of the AIAB Carving Team
The Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown was the site chosen for this event. Four groups of tables were set up for the participating teams: Women on Water, Abreast In A Boat, The Wong Way and Gung Haggis Fat Choy. This was to be a three-hour session to decide on a design, a carving shift schedule and general questions. All I could think was “My lord those tree trunks are HUGE and how are we going to carve anything in a week with only a chisel and a wooden mallet. We hashed around some ideas, came up with a plan, and those who could draw started putting a design on paper. We chose the two logs to be carved and those of us who were better at making lists dealt with the shift schedule of 18 members. At the end of the session we had our drawings up on the wall, our logs labelled with our names, and the new box of chisels all laid out. We were excited. Well, Monday morning at 9 am sharp I was on the doorstep of the Port Moody Library getting books on “How to Carve”! Those logs were not “roughed out” like I thought they would be. Books, gloves, goggles in hand I started my first shift. Eric our instructor and master carver, was very helpful and excited himself. We found that chiseling away at the dry logs was a lot easier than expected – that is, when the mallet hit the chisel instead of our hands! This was not true though when we came across a knot. The sawing part was definitely an aerobic workout. CBC Television filmed and interviewed for a while and arranged to come back on Friday to see the “finished” product. I smiled at that positive thought. On Tuesday Jo, Anne and I did a marathon of seven hours with other members coming in on their shifts. We were really starting to get the hang of this. The basic shapes were starting to happen and the detailed designs drawn on the logs. Chris had brought in a fabulous drawing of the head with measurements included – obviously the artists in the group.
Over the course of the next three days absolutely wonderful things started to happen. We went from “Oh my – 8 hours of chiselling and we’ve only cut out a 10-12 inch two-by-four at one end” to extravagant designs we never thought possible. As each person started her new shift it was so exciting to see what had been done the day or two before. Scales, fins, eyes, tails were all forming to the delight of everyone. The fancy chisels were out now along with files and other objects that looked impressive to me. The friendship that had formed between the four dragon boat teams was very noticeable when I went back on Friday night, our last night. The almost completed dragon head and tail then went home to be finished with ears, horns, special marine paint and varnish.