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Carving out a niche for everyone

Post Series: Solent Guild of Woodcarvers and Sculptors

The Solent Guild of Woodcarvers and Sculptors is run entirely by volunteers and is aimed at anyone interested in all aspects of carving, whittling, sculpting and other wood related activities.

Group portrait of some of the members of the SGWC&S

Group portrait of some of the members of the SGWC&S

George Palmer chairman of the solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors

George Palmer, Chairman of the SGWC&S

Solent guild of woodcarbers and sculptors logo

Guild secretary John Vardon tells us about the Guild and its history.

 

portrait of john vardon Ssecretary SGWC&S

John Vardon, Secretary for the SGWC&S

When did the Guild start-up?

The Guild was founded in May 1978 by the late James Bell, in conjunction with three others – Vic Flower, Bill Judge and Stan Callan. At a meeting in Cosham on May 18th of that year, which was attended by twenty people, the Solent Guild of Woodcarvers and Sculptors was officially inaugurated. Several Members, those who joined during the first few years, are still Members of the Guild today.

Founder members of The Solent Woodworkers and Sculptors Guild

Founder members of The Solent Woodworkers and Sculptors Guild
[image courtesy of SGWC&S]

Are you still based in Cosham?
These days, although we’re centred on Portsmouth in Central Southern England, members, whose ages range from 16 to over 90 years, are mainly from the Solent area, but some come from as far as Petersfield and Selsey. Our club carving days are held in the Design & Technology workshops of The Portsmouth Grammar School.

portsmouth grammar school entrance gate with coat of arms

Carve-In day for solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors at portsmouth grammar school

Andy Banger, Philip Haskell, John Vardon

Ros and Lin Palmer during carve-in day workshop

Keeping it in the family, Ros and Lin Palmer

Why was the Guild created?
The founder members were all keen to promote the craft of woodcarving. At that time, they felt that it wasn’t really fully supported in the Solent region.

How are you organised?
As well as ‘full members’ we have social members and occasionally we may have a junior member who is under 18 years We are ‘managed’ by a committee of our members.

Some of the SGWC&S committee members

Some of the SGWC&S committee members
L to R – Jean Cripps, Sandra Barnes, Doug Phillips, Lin Palmer, George Palmer

In 2016 the committee members were:

  • Chairman: George Palmer
  • Secretary: John Vardon
  • Treasurer: Jean Cripps
  • Newsletter Editor: Lin Palmer
  • Social Secretary: Gill Sadler
  • Ordinary Member: Sandra Barnes
  • Ordinary Member: Doug Phillips

 

How many members do you have?
In the early days we grew to over one hundred, but at the moment we have around fifty members of both sexes, across a wide range of ages. Like other woodcarving clubs, we find it difficult to encourage young blood and convince the younger ones that carving and other wood related activities is for all ages, male and female alike. Membership is open to anyone interested in woodcarving, there are details of how to apply on our website.

carve-in day at portsmouth grammar school

Doug Phillips and George Palmer

Member of the solent guild fo woodcarvers and sculptors at a carve-in day

Solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors coffee mug on bench with tools

close up of woodcarver at carve-In day for solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors at portsmouth grammar school

close up of woodcarving at carve-In day for solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors at portsmouth grammar school

close up of woodcarving at carve-In day for solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors at portsmouth grammar school

I guess you have quite a wide range of experience among your membership?
Indeed, our members are many and various; some are practically beginners and others have carved for most of their lives. The styles and methods are just as varied. The whole range of carvings is covered, with some members specialising in relief, some in ‘human form’, and others in birds, fish, etc. We’re always delighted with this variety; every individual is important for their particular contribution, whether it be flair, experience, youth, exuberance or meticulous workmanship.

Woodcarver carving gothic lettering plaque

Alan Crockford

close up of woodcarvers hands carving gothic lettering

close up of hand carved gothic lettering plaque

What’s your raison d’être, so to speak?
Apart from enjoying all aspects of carving, whittling, sculpting and other wood related activities ourselves, we want to encourage newcomers to the craft. Male, female, young or old, everyone is welcome.

famale woodcarver carving a wooden swan

Marthita Chippendale

close up of female woodcarver carving a swan with a wood chisel

female woodcarver carving a swan with printed reference magazine in the foreground

Solent guild woodcarver member carving a gargoyle

Philip Haskell

rough outline of work in progress carving of a gargoyle

tools of the woodcarving trade

close up of woodcarvers hands working on a gargoyle carving

Reference material for gargoyle carving

How do you spread the message about woodcarving?
We regularly hold carving sessions, exhibitions and demonstrations, competitions and, of course, social get-togethers. It’s actually a really good social activity. We find that the relaxed atmosphere of our carving sessions is a great way to pass on skills. Although the Guild does not provide formal tuition, the more experienced members help and encourage others.

awards for woodcarving

Awards for woodcarving 
[image courtesy of SGWC&S]

John Vardon secretary of the solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors at a carve-in day

John Vardon

marking up a carving

Reference material for carved dental hygiene sign

Carving to represent dental hygiene at Portsmouth Grammar School

female member of the solent woodcarvers and sculptors guild

Sandra Barnes

Close up of female woodcarver working on carving of an elephant

Close up of work in progress elephant carving with reference figure in the foreground

You mentioned the social side of things …
The Guild is very active throughout the year. Our carving sessions are interspersed by monthly social evenings where a talk, not always related to woodcarving, is given, a quiz, skittles or other social event is held. In the spring and summer months, the Guild attend about eleven external events, e.g. arts trails, country park shows, wood-related shows and local, outdoor museums.

various events shows and dinners for the solent woodcarvers and sculptors guild

Typical events, shows and dinners for members of the Solent woodcarvers and sculptors guild.
[images courtesy of SGWC&S]]

Is there any sort of rivalry between members?
Not as such but each year we hold two competitions – one is held at the Guild’s AGM and the other is the Annual Competition. The AGM competition is for the Bill Pinney Trophy and, this year has the theme ‘caricature in relief’ and is judged by members. The Annual competition has various classes, including one for novices, and trophies are presented for each class. This competition is judged by members of the public at one of our demonstrations. Awards are made at the Annual dinner.

George palmer at work during a carve-in day at Portsmouth grammar school

George Palmer

woodcarver at work during a solent woodcarver and sculptors guild carve-in

close up of woodcarver at work during a solent woodcarver and sculptors guild carve-in

close up of wood carving

Are you involved with the local community at all?
Occasionally, members of the Guild carry out a major project for a particular local organisation. In 2002 the Guild completed a carving for Havant Borough Council. This carving is hung in the entrance hall to the Council chamber.

Havant borough council offices plaque

Havant borough council woodcarving

Solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors members responsible for the havant borough council chamber carving

havant borough council chamber woodcarving detail

havant borough council chamber woodcarving

havant borough council chamber woodcarving

havant borough council chamber woodcarving detail

havant borough council chamber woodcarving detail

In 2005, we were asked by The Friends of the Royal Naval Museum and HMS Victory to design and carve a carving to celebrate the Bicentenary of Trafalgar. The carving, designed by myself, was based on the midship section of HMS Victory and comprised six individual carvings by Jess Jay, Ray White, Bert Cox, John Tappy, Alan Crockford and Andrew Huebler. One-half of the carving depicts the Navy in the days of Admiral Lord Nelson and the other half depicts the navy of today. The resulting carving was on display at The Royal Naval Museum but due to some refurbishment, it is currently in storage.

trafalgar carving held in the royal naval museum portsmouth

trafalgar bicentennial commemoration carving by the solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors

Carving designed and carved by members of the Solent Guild of Woodcarvers and Sculptors to celebrate the Bicentenary of Trafalgar
[images courtesy of SGWC&S]

trafalgar bicentennial commemoration carving plaque celebrating the work of the solent guild of woodcarvers and sculptors

female woodcarver carving a wooden bowl

Chris Phillips

Two female woodcarvers in workshop

Sandra Barnes & Chris Phillips

female member of the solent woodcarvers and sculptors guild carving during a carve-in day at portsmouth grammar school

Our members are often asked to carry out projects for local schools, and some undertake commissions. One example is a Nature Trail Notice Board for Gomer Junior School; this was led by Darriell Platts. Year 4 pupils put forward ideas for the carving which were then transferred into appropriate images for carving. The wood was supplied by a local joiner. Darriell and Jean Cripps carved various animals and I carved the lettering. Other members were ready to carry out further carving if required. On completion, the trail was opened by Caroline Dinenage, the school’s local MP.

Handover of gomer junior school nature trail sign

Handover of the Gomer Junior School Nature Trail Sign.
Headteacher, at the time, Craig Williams, Caroline Dineage MP and Darriell Platts
[image courtesy of SGWC&S]

solent woodcarvers guild member at work

Andy Banger

solent woodcarver carving a figurine

reference figure for carving project

Reference figure and work in progress carving

female woodcarver

Jean Cripps

close up of female woodcarvers hands and personal project

female woodcarver with carving project on workbench

What sort of demonstrations does the Guild give?
Some of our members are members of other groups, e.g. Selsey and Bentley. We also have members who have joined up with other carvers in the area and demonstrate once a month at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester. A fellow carver, Jess Jay, and myself providing tuition at a one and two-day course on basic woodcarving. Some of our members also use their carving knowledge to carve in stone or other non-wood material. Anything we can do to spread the word really.

Basic woodcarving tuition at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester

Woodcarvers during demonstration day at Weald and Downland museum.

woodcarvers during demonstration day at weald and downland museum

Jess Jay and John Vardon giving tuition at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester.
[images courtesy of SGWC&S]

male woodcarver

David Owen

close up of male woodcarver and intricate carving

Lin Palmer

close up of female woodcarvers hands and work in progress carving

ros palmer with current work in progress carving

Ros Palmer

female woodcarver with personal carving project

Dora Perry

female woodcarvers during a carve-in workshop

Marthita Chippendale & Sandra Barnes

close up of two work in progress carvings from members of the solent woodcarvers and sculptors guild

Web Links and References of interest

SGWC&S: Solent Guild of Woodcarvers and Sculptors
Web: www.solentguildofwoodcarvers.org.uk/

English Woodlands Timber
Web: http://www.englishwoodlandstimber.co.uk/

W.L West and Sons Ltd
Web: http://www.wlwest.co.uk/

The West Sussex Woodturners
Web: http://www.westsussexwoodturners.co.uk/

Geisler-Moroder School  [Austria]
Web: http://www.schnitzschule.com

Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust
Web: http://learningstone.org/

Sussex Woodcraft Society
Web: http://www.sussexwoodcraft.co.uk/

Forest of Bere Woodturners
Web: http://www.forestofberewoodturners.org.uk/

Bentley Wildlife Carvers
Web: http://bentleywildlifecarvers.weebly.com/

Selsey Wood Carvers
Web: http://www.selseywoodcarvers.co.uk/

 

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