John L. Dickens

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My name is John Dickens and I have been carving for 48 years.Thirty three professionally. I try to make each carving a one of a kind and the best work that I can do. My favorite carving subjects are the local songbirds that I attract to my backyard feeder. I also carve animals, country people and relief carvings. My favorite carving wood is basswood. The carvings are painted with acrylics or finished with linseed oil and beeswax. Most of my work is done with an ordinary pocketknife.


After a stint in the Army, I finished college with a degree in Industrial Arts. Over the years I have made banjo's and dulcimers, done black smith work, made furniture, guitars, wooden horse drawn sledges during hard winters,butter churns and wooden buckets and built houses as well as teaching Industrial Arts for 30 years.

Nearly all of the work I have done has

been decorated with carvings of animals and birds. I love to do a carving that is the absolute best I can do and will be

appreciated as much 100 years from now as it is presently.

Each time I do an animal I want to do it in a different pose so I can learn more about its anatomy and how it moves and behaves.. I try to portray animals and people as realistically as I can.

I have backpacked and canoed all over SW Virginia and love watching birds and animals. I want my work to show the true

nature of the animal I am portraying.

My carving patterns are my own. I have sketched pigs while dodging the old sow, put road kill in the freezer to kill the fleas before sketching, and studied all kinds of birds such as owls and hawks that had suffered fatal accidents.

Basswood is my carving wood of choice. Basswood is common to southwest Virginia and when I became serious about the carving I started cutting the trees, splitting them into blocks and then squaring them up on the table saw. Occasionally I still will cut a tree and go through the old process but now I am more likely to buy the wood from loggers.

Once I have a block of basswood ready for carving, I transfer the pattern on the block and cut it out with a coping saw or band saw. Most of my carving is done with an ordinary pocketknife or simple wood gouge.

I prefer to paint birds so they look more like the actual birds. Painting is done with acrylic paint and the carving is mounted on a natural looking piece of driftwood. I will often leave animals or caricatures of people unpainted and finish them with a coating of bees wax.