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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wood Carver's Artistic and Philosphical Journey Repairing Damaged Art
Title: The Lost Carving - A Journey to the Heart of Making
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,...
Published 24 months ago by connywithay

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vignettes Fascinating, Narrative Lacking
I opened The Lost Carving expecting a narrative about the author's experience creating a copy of a Grinling Gibbons carved swag that was burnt in a fire at Hampton Court. Since I admire Gibbons's work, I thought that would be interesting. The book turned out to be vivid when describing the physical and spiritual experience of woodcarving, with equally well-written...
Published 21 months ago by MaineWoman


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wood Carver's Artistic and Philosphical Journey Repairing Damaged Art, December 27, 2012
This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
Title: The Lost Carving - A Journey to the Heart of Making
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Graceful, Gentlemanly Artistic Read, January 14, 2013
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Like a voice from another, wiser century, David Esterly shares the story of his painstaking, trial-and-error work in rediscovering the "hows" of Grinling Gibbons carving. Has he gone beyond Gibbons' level? Esterly is too modest to say but a look at his work will convince. What is so lovely to read is how Esterly's deep roots in the study of Literature and Philosophy enlightened his discoveries. Anyone who lives immersed in creative endeavor will recognize many simple truths about the creative process, expressed in terms that sound chords in the higher mind. A graceful, gentlemanly artistic read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vignettes Fascinating, Narrative Lacking, April 1, 2013
This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
I opened The Lost Carving expecting a narrative about the author's experience creating a copy of a Grinling Gibbons carved swag that was burnt in a fire at Hampton Court. Since I admire Gibbons's work, I thought that would be interesting. The book turned out to be vivid when describing the physical and spiritual experience of woodcarving, with equally well-written digressions to the experience of looking out the windows of his upstate NY studio at fields and a river and of kayaking or swimming in the river and snowshoeing across the fields. Since a purer narrative thread apparently would have described petty quarrels with administrators at Hampton Court and so on, perhaps the book is better as it is, even though I wound up not even knowing when the fire happened and when the replacement carving was done. The bottom line is that I enjoyed reading The Lost Carving and took away unexpected insights, perhaps even more valuable because they weren't the ones I expected.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High quality book and book cover. Superb writing., May 21, 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
The cover of this fine book is as beautiful as the writing within. The dust jacket designed by Jason Ramirez features raised lettering the color of old ivory on a soft, moss-green background, shading slightly darker along the border. The photography by Gentl & Hyers is exquisite: the elaborate details of masterly carving come through vividly, lighted to near-perfection. The hard-back cover is a softer green with a tan back-edging and easy-to-read title. This is an impressively well-designed book by the Viking trademark of the Penguin book company. The text is dark and legible, the writing fluent, and soon one is swept effortlessly away into a pleasurable odyssey of learning.

Inside, numerous photographs are strategically placed in a way that enhance the text and are convenient for reference. Here, black and white complement the writing by focusing attention on shape and shadow.

Workers in many fields will empathize with David Esterly when he tells of "untold hours of industry for effects that, to all intents and purposes, would be seen by no one." Quality is a harsh taskmaster: "Fifty percent of the effort will achieve ninety percent of the effect." But, "If you allow yourself to stop at that ninety percent, then the carving can never succeed, never really succeed." It is not simply ego: His advice "Forget yourself. It will improve your work," has lasting relevance.

If you have done, or are doing, quality work, in any field, this book will resonate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making, April 22, 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
This is an outstanding book, beautifully written, with a depth and integrity rare today.The author shares how his passion and gift for an ancient art and craft became his life's dedication: The almost-lost art of of wood-carving is illuminated for the reader as David Esterley reveals how carving wood opened dimensions within him, which - in the reading - are transmitted to the reader. The linking of this journey with the restoration of the work of the Grinling Gibbons, Master Carver of the 1600s reads like a mystery! This is a fine, subtle and passionate book, deeply personal as it explores universal themes. What a joy to discover it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Carving, February 20, 2013
This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
I was lucky enough to catch a small show of David Esterly's work in NY last month. After seeing the show I had to read the book and indeed I would have been a good bit less enriched had I missed this beautiful history. My initial idea of Mr. Esterly as a master carver from upstate NY was clarified quickly. As one starts to read and it becomes apparent he is a writer who is a scholar of Grinling Gibbons (the foremost master carver of the 17th century) who happens to carve.
This story of his progression from student to carver to writer had me flipping pages faster than I imagined as the method in his writing mimics the method he discusses in his carving, plunging ahead and uncovering the art as he continues. I knew very little of Grinling Gibbons before I read this and when I finished the book, my first thought was to get to London to go on an appreciation tour.
The new book is out soon I understand-- can't wait!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Story Beautifully Told, January 22, 2013
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If you like art Read this book. You will not be disappointed. The author's journey is one story and the carving restoration another that is beautifully woven together.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very moving, January 21, 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
Highly recommended for sculptors, painters, or any other "makers" out there. Almost a meditative read, it is inspiring for those of us who share the thought processes, highs and lows of creating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heard it on NPR, January 20, 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (Hardcover)
Excellent book! Happier than I thought I'd be. The author goes deeper into the "wrestling" aspect of creation, rather than just the technical.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Transforming Wood Into Art, August 15, 2014
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A fascinating view into the arcane world of creating art from wood. Esterly tells the gripping story of restoring wood carvings by the great 17th century master Grinling Gibbons which were badly damaged in a disastrous fire at Hampton Court. It's an education into the carver's world, interwoven with the reality of dealing with the multiplicity of stakeholders involved with England's most interesting royal residence. This book combines the story of an extraordinary person's life journey with the intrigue and pacing of a good mystery novel.
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The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making
The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making by David Esterly (Hardcover - December 27, 2012)
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