Frozen in time ... that thought went through my head the first time I saw the bird carvings of artist and woodworker Jack Fisher. The birds all seemed like they could take wing at any second. The colors, the feather detail and the poses of each of the birds all combine to make them look like a three dimensional photograph of the real thing. I have always marvelled at how carvers can take a piece of wood and carve from it such detailed and exacting figures ... examples of which you will see further in this article.
I had the opportunity to visit the workshop and studio of Jack Fisher and I found far more than incredible carvings of birds and animals.
I also found traditional furniture, carved boxes and carved table lamps, and detailed model ships with multiple masts of detailed miniature rigging. It's obvious that Jack Fisher has an eye for detail and the patience and talent to create objects of elaborate detail and accuracy
As I talked with Jack, he told me that as a young apprentice he was trained to be a British Tailor, and that he worked in that industry for a few short years. When I heard this, I began to understand why he was able to create such detail in his carvings, because being a tailor means having an eye for detail, but that in making a suit, the finished product must also be accurate and in proportion in order to look as it should. I could see how this knowledge of proportion and detail could be transferred to woodworking and carving.
Jack went on to tell me that the first time he ever carved anything was when he was in his early 20s. He was working in Germany and living on a boat. He decided that the table end of the boat should have carving, and so he went about carving an eagle. He had nothing to go by for a model except the figure of the head of an eagle on a German coin. I can't imagine how challenging it must have been to work from only the indentation on the side of a coin and from that, carve a full size, or larger figurehead for a boat.
By his mid 20's Jack had moved to Canada and was employed as a cabinet maker, a career which he worked in most of his working life. He told me that one day, after years of cabinet making, he was making yet another “almond colored” set of kitchen cabinets, which turned out to be his last set. He needed and wanted something far more challenging and creative than making commercial cabinets. It was at that point Jack pointed to a picture on the wall of his workshop. It was a older color photograph of a 30 foot sailboat. “My was his first major woodworking project” he told me. He went on to say that the sailboat was still around although it had been renamed and had some renovations ... not bad for a 40 year old first project sailboat. I envy woodworkers who start off with such big and complex projects, it must be exhilarating to finish them.
Jack Fisher is the first one to tell you that you don't need a massive workshop full of tools to turn out quality work, and when you see his workshop and the collection of power and hand tools he uses, you can believe it. When you see the carved boxes, the furniture and of course the bird, knife, box and other carvings, all works of art, it's easy to see that creating quality comes from the craftsman and not the tools.
If you ever find yourself on vacation on the west coast of Canada, and on Vancouver Island, you might want to make a stop in the little town of Ladysmith to invest in some bird or other carvings from artist and woodworker, Jack Fisher, or contact woodworkweb directly.
Copyright Colin Knecht