Framed Miniature Tree Spirit

Carving bark is special to me.  I like to work in found materials so I have never bought bark to carve.  Not that I will never buy bark. In fact, when my present supply is exhausted, I have found a source and want to try a large piece.  I say that because where I live, the cottonwood (deltoid poplar) bark does not grow very thick. I still use it and carve whimsical houses and wood spirits. The rich golden colour and ease of working make bark a great medium. I have also used willow bark and it works well for some things.

When you work in found materials you have to clean the piece up a little and look at what you have. Uniquely shaped pieces regardless of how rough and gnarled are my favorites.  The piece has to guide you to the finished product.  Often I have pieces lined up waiting while I work on something else. Looking at them during breaks often brings ideas to mind. Some of my projects are 40 to 50 centimeters long and 10 centimeters wide and some are miniatures.  I have made wall hangings, framed projects and fridge magnets.

Bark is very soft and as such, carves easily. Sharp tools are a must otherwise you run the risk of tearing the wood. Because my bark is often small, I use micro chisels, small knives, needle files and a jewelers’ saw to shape the piece.  When doing whimsical houses,

Whimsical House

I hand drill the chimney, then use a wood-burning tool to soot up the chimney inside and out.  A tooth brush cleans up the final carving before finishing.

When finishing I apply a coat Varathane Diamond Wood Finish by Rust-oleum in satin or semi-gloss. This product is water based and is non-yellowing. I paint the Varathane on and work it into the carving until it has totally soaked in leaving no white buildup. Excess finish is redistributed to other areas. On the first coat the bark will absorb a lot of the finish quickly, then become sticky because it is quick drying so I work on small sections at a time.  I give it 24 hours to dry, then apply a second coat after a brushing with the tooth brush to remove any fuzzes.  Two coats is usually enough.  When it is completely dry I attach a hanger or I frame the piece.