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We have all gone for a walk and seen a rock, a piece of driftwood or an entire tree that just seemed to have some sort of story to tell, some sort of image inside, waiting to come out. Maybe it was a face, or an animal, or just a design or pattern, nonetheless, it was there. Carvers see things like this all the time. They search for good strong wood, soft rocks, and other materials, and work with tools, drawings and machines to bring out those images hiding within.

Carvers can create huge pieces, for art, ceremony or to keep alive traditional techniques and designs. Some nations of Native Americans have made totem poles for thousands of years, and carvers today create them to educate others and to keep their traditions vibrant and modern.

Carvers often incorporate their skills into other jobs, like carpentry, furniture design or interior design. They may work with construction crews and architecture companies, applying their carving skills to trim work, doors, furniture, and in other functional ways. Some carvers choose to stick to making things like jewelry, ornamental plates, wall hangings and sculptures, and sell their creations in galleries.

Regardless of whether or not the carvers are working for themselves or someone else, their job is usually physically demanding. Not only must they be excellent drawers, with good manual dexterity, and the ability to use tools like chain saws, files, chisels and other engraving tools, they must be able to visualize items three dimensionally before they are made. Carvers must be able to not only see that face in the driftwood--they have to know how to make that face comes to life.
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The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
Helping creative minds bring their ideas to life.
Programs Offered:
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a carver? Carvers must be creative, and driven to create art. They should be willing to put in long, hard hours. Carvers have good manual dexterity and steady hands. They are creative and innovative thinkers with the patience to see a creation through from beginning to end. They should be culturally sensitive, and interested in learning about the arts in communities outside of their own. It is a good idea for carvers to have some business sense, especially if they would like to make this their career.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Find appropriate wood, bone, stone or other material from which to create carving
  • Research traditional carvings
  • Sketch design ideas
  • Meet with gallery administrators
  • Use various sorts of tools to create functional, traditional or purely esthetic carvings
  • The typical day for a carver will involve planning, researching and executing designs. Carvers spend part of each day working in noisy studios with machines, large pieces of material, and using smaller knives and tools to create intricate designs and shapes on smaller pieces of wood, bone, etc. Carvers do get to travel, as they will be always on the lookout for exposure to new techniques, new materials and new cultural influences.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Generally, carvers work part-time, however, the longer they work and the more popular their carving, the more likely it is their talents can be put to work full-time. They work in studios, often in their own homes. Carvers usually work alone, or in collaboration with a few artists. They can set their own hours, and may work nights and weekends if working on a special project or design.
  • They may sell their original work in galleries or artisans' shops, or they may create special pieces made to order for specific clients. Some carvers find full-time work with carpentry and furniture-design companies, with interior decorating and interior design companies, or with museums and historical societies, carving historically accurate re-creations, and work completing their own creations on the side.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Carvers can become full-time artisans, or open a shop to sell their wares. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can become furniture designers, set builders or carpenters, or apply their artistic talents to other crafts and arts.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required program to take or path to follow to become a carver. Often, carvers will study under the guidance of an established artisan, so it is a good idea to for novice carvers to find a carver who they can work and learn from. Some colleges offer courses in carving, as well as some private schools. It might be a good idea, however, to complete a university degree or college diploma in fine art, woodworking or sculpture, as well as a few courses in business, for those who plan on going into business as a carver.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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