The Lost Carving – A Journey to the Heart of Making Reviewed By Conny Crisalli of
Conny Withay

Reviewer Conny Withay:Operating her own business in office management since 1991, Conny is an avid reader and volunteers with the elderly playing her designed The Write Word Game. A cum laude graduate with a degree in art living in the Pacific Northwest, she is married with two sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren.

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By Conny Withay
Published on December 21, 2012

Author: David Esterly
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0-670-02380-6

Author: David Esterly
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0-670-02380-6

The saying that “art imitates life” rings true in David Esterly’s book, The Lost Carving – A Journey to the Heart of Making when he states, “The giant was the act of carving, the profession itself: the making of a carving, the making of anything. Making itself. The Ancient of Days in all of us, the impulse to create.”

At two hundred and eighty-two pages, this hardbound book depicts on the front cover a photograph of a wood carving assembly consisting of a nonchalant block with shavings along with an almost-too-real-looking carved leaf. Inside there are several black and white photographs of the author, his mentor and some of their artistic, meticulous wood carvings.

Accomplished, self-taught woodcarver and author, Esterly uses his duteous journals from the late nineteen nineties to take the reader artistically back and forth in time to the seventeenth century when he is commissioned to repair and reproduce elegant wood carvings that Grinling Gibbons did for King William III's apartments at Hampton Court near London which were damaged in a 1986 fire.

By not only telling the story of Gibbons’ success, failures, frustrations and carving techniques, the writer dovetails his own obsession, loyalty, dedication and even discontent of the unique artist within the pages. The reader learns how Gibbons had to switch from political and religious pieces to flowers, fruits and foliage bouquets of intricate, detailed works of art to vault his unappreciated career.

Through Esterly’s eyes, one is told parts of the three-dimensional puzzle that consist of the cherished limewood, the deadly tools of blades and gouges that create the dynamic tensions or breakages, the degrading wax filler that suffocates and colors the true medium, the artist’s tricks using Dutch rush for abrasion since sandpaper was non-existent at the time, the hidden layering of unadulterated glued platforms by assistant craftsmen and the centuries of works being hung backward or upside down on the palace walls. With references flowing from Bernini and Koons to Plotinus and Yeats, a tale is told of the angst and questionable acceptance of altering antique artwork to its original status or only remodeling it to current condition with no speculative recarving allowed.

Etching an inch a day at times on the seven foot creation, the writer fights his own decisions, dilemmas and demons when he realizes his own artistic error, as he comes to the potential revelation that he is just another copier adding his own innovative signature on a piece of artwork. With his incessant devotion to Gibbons, his undercurrent challenge to exhibit his long forgotten master’s work is caught up in years of red-tape, while the Royal Academy determines if the work is considered sculpture or estate furnishings.

Amongst the colorful art descriptions and details, the self-mocking sarcasm and the fear of fleeting inspiration, the reader cherishes the writer’s tone, truth and purpose that each chapter creatively and philosophically captures, wishing it would never end. Even if one is not creative or artistic, this is a fascinating, heart-felt read that anyone who appreciates history or the arts would enjoy.

Follow Here To Purchase The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making

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