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Carving an Ainu inspired bowl

Written by Simon Leadbetter

As the dark wintry nights begin drawing in, I will spend more time on one of my favourite pastimes – wood carving. I am self taught and a relative novice, but I don’t let that stop me.

In late 2018, I visited the National Museum of Scotland with my daughter and found a hidden treasure (well at least for me). A bowl, carved by the Ainu tribe – indigenous people of Japan and Russia.

Tucked away in one of the many rooms in this great museum, at the bottom of a display cabinet, I stumbled across this bowl.

As a keen wood carver, I was struck but its simple beauty and understood the skill required to create something so practical, yet aesthetically pleasing.

I had not attempted to carve anything so complex, but was up for the challenge.

With a friend, we harvested some discarded offcuts from a recently coppiced wood, grabbed the froe and started to split the wood.

The next step was to shape the wood with an axe and then it was a case of carving it with a variety of knives, gouges and a lot of patience.

Friend (in Japanese)

It took about 8 months, but I was really pleased with the result.

I eventually gifted the bowl to my friend for a significant birthday – hence the reason for the word 'friend' in Japanese carved into the bowl’s base.

This project taught me that, no matter how difficult the project may be, unless you give it a go you’ll never know what you can achieve.

I am now looking forward to starting my next 'Craft' project, but I have yet to decide what that may be. A Totem pole perhaps.