flat plane woodcarving

This is a style of woodworking very popular in Scandinavia and the US but very little known in the UK. I have to say most of the work done today I find rather kitch or twee. Folk for some reason often use the style to carve elves and gnomes or goofy caricatures. I am going to ignore all that stuff and show the work of the man I consider to be the master of this work and the source and inspiration back in Sweden where it originated Axel Petersson. (1868-1925)

He was known as doderhultarn which I have not found a translation for but the name became the standard term for this style of carving in Sweden. For many years he carved and sold his work on the local market but in 1909 his work was exhibited in Stockholm and from them on it was highly acclaimed in the art world and commanded good prices. The thing that I like about his work is that like the best impressionist painting it captures in a few bold strokes the essence of the subject. They are not caricatures with exaggerated features  but wonderful studies of country people going about their daily lives. There is no need to talk about them though either they do it for you or they don’t so here are some pictures.

And here he is carving all the work was done hand held with a knife.

There are plenty of folk doing nice carving in Scandinavia and many in the US using the techniques though I have not come across any that have what Petersson had. Probably the best known is the US carver Harley Refsal. After the intro this video shows him at work and talking about teaching.

Last mention should go to the Trygg family of carvers, Carl Johan Trygg was working at the same time as Petersson, he emigrated to Canada and had three sons all of whom carved selling huge numbers of carvings to tourists. Whilst Carl Johans carvings bare similarity to Petersson’s his sons evolved into the more caricature style with big noses. Here is one by his eldest son Carl Olof.

This seems to be very much the style Harley Refsal follows.

9 Responses to flat plane woodcarving

  1. jens jørgen olesen December 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Döderhultaren lived in Oskarshamm in Sweden, and in the Museum there theres a real nice exhebetion with works of döderhultaren, and it can only bee recomented to see this.The museum is closed until spring 2011.

  2. Robin Wood December 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Thanks Jens Jorgen. Can you translate Döderhultaren for us? I would love to visit the museum one day.

  3. MackTheKnife December 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Doderhult is the parrish in which Axel Petersson was born. The village of Oskarshamm is in that parrish. This according to Harley Refsal in his book, Art & Technique of Scandinavian Style Woodcarving.Bob

  4. Jonas December 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    He is the grandmaster of that craft! But I'm sure I have read somewhere that he used a saw to rough out the shape and that he almost only carved in alder.

  5. flyingshavings December 13, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Well I suppose it's quite difficult to carve figures from a tree only using a knife!They certainly are fine figures, his cow reminds me of Picasso's goat. It must have been easier to study people when they rushed around a bit less, maybe that's one of the attractions people find in watching craftspeople at work – seeing someone absorbed in their work. Cars and the internet are wonderful things, but I don't think they help bring people physically together. The tube and other rapid transit systems surely do, but mostly not in a good way, but, on the other hand, last time I was in London I observed two chaps sketching people on the tube, so maybe all is not yet quite lost 😀

  6. flyingshavings December 13, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    Interesting shape to the knife blade – looks like an outsize chip carver!

  7. T.L. Cooper December 15, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    Thanks for introducing me to Axel Petersson. Fine work indeed.

  8. Darma December 20, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    wow that great oneregardsBali Bone Carving

  9. Best advice December 21, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I have never heard of this style and I have been whittling away for years. Isn't the detail simply incredible. A good post for me as I am always looking for those who actually know what they are doing. The style is facinating so more research for me.