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|Six fears and myths about the woodcarving industry|
After the modernism that followed the war, no one expected we'd see hand-carved ornamentation in our architecture again, writes Master Carver Ian Agrell. Yet here it is. We’re enjoying a resurgence in classical decoration, whether it's a restoration of a 400-year-old church, a brand-new chapel with a Gothic organ case, or a Louis XIV-style library for a billionaire's London penthouse.
Large architectural firms are increasingly winning projects requiring hand-carved woodwork. However, many of these companies—especially those more experienced in modern styles—know little about classical decoration or the ornamentation industry as a whole. They might not know that woodcarving workshops still exist.
Worryingly, they might tell their client that a Gothic organ case can't be done because they themselves don't know it can be done. Or, they might assume that a carving workshop that employs centuries-old tools and techniques is unable meet the modern demands of a large-scale project.
However, there are woodcarving companies and individuals who have the experience to tackle large ornamentation projects. And it's our job, as an industry, to convince these architects that we woodcarvers can do the work efficiently, professionally, and to the highest-possible quality. So, let's start by allaying a few myths—and fears—about our industry by giving an idea of what you can expect from an experienced classical carving firm.
“No one knows how to carve by hand anymore. Surely they use machines.”
“The carver won't have the historical knowledge to fully understand the style.”
“The carver won't understand our complicated technical drawings.”
“They won't know how to work with others on the project.”
“It’s going to cost a lot—far too much for our budget.”
But carving doesn't have to be cost prohibitive. The key is figuring out as early as possible what your clients really want—and what they're willing to spend. It's no good getting two years into a project before realising the carving is out of the budget. I've seen this scenario before: The client panics and then settles for poor-quality decoration that fits the budget. But guess what? That bad decoration still cost a lot of money.
Instead, budgeting issues can be solved early in the design stage by reducing the volume of decoration while maintaining its complexity, or by reducing its complexity and maintaining the volume. Notice I never mentioned quality. Never sacrifice quality; you can still have carving that isn't complex but that is still well-executed and true to the design intent.
Finally, put the value of the carving in perspective. Ask yourself, how much is being spent on the plaster work? The painting? The stonework? The entertainment system? Then consider that high-quality carved decoration will be around forever and survive as a historical heirloom.
“They won't have the capacity to manage the workload and won't deliver on time.”
Ian Agrell is a Master Carver and the principal at Agrell Architectural Carving, a woodcarving company with a capacity to produce 50,000 hours of hand-carved decoration annually. Together with his team of highly trained woodcarvers, Agrell has created a world-renowned workshop with a reputation for exceptional craftsmanship.
To find out more about woodcarving visit www.agrellcarving.co.uk