Snail on chestnut, Work in progress


I have been working on a netsuke in boxwood of a snail on a chestnut which started out promisingly. This was inspired by the many antique chestnut netsuke with a dark rich stain and patina which i wanted to replicate.

Carving a chestnut is deceptively difficult. One has an assumption that such an item would be easy to reproduce but once you start examining a chestnut, their undulating form, striation, asymmetry and satin gloss finish it quickly becomes a complex task. The second challenge is to replicate the above with exactly reproducing every impression and contour like for like. I wanted it to appear realistic whilst each cut would give an impression of the form, deceiving the eye to make it appear real. The third challenge is replicating the patina and stain of the beautiful antiques I have seen whilst also mimicking the colour and polish of a real chestnut.

Not one stage has gone exactly as I would have liked it.

The shape I achieved I am happy with but it not exactly as I set out to make. The detail is adequate but is not as impressionistic as i would like. I have a habit of trying to carve every detail rather than giving an impression of detail and I need further work to find a method of achieving this which suits me.

The staining has almost undone the whole project. The boxwood i used appears to be very unstable. After a warm bath in yashadama a number of hairline splits appeared and then closed again. I then tried a cold stain and the same happened to a greater degree and the splits did not close as well. After this I tried filling them but then had to find a way of covering them so used urushi to achieve a finish. The humidity in the curing process for urushi caused further splits to appear. I have not yet finished allying the urushi but these pictures show my progress to date. after the urushi is finished I need to to the gloss of the finish and polisg the rest of the piece. I am unsure if this will work and if anything this has been an exhausting learning exercise.

Chidori Netsuke


SONY DSCEarlier this year I started a small netsuke based on the traditional Japanese Chidori motif. Chidori are a small plover bird and simple designs of them can be seen on modern and antique Japanese goods. I had a small piece of baltic amber I wanted to use for a bird related design and decided to make a chidori as a short project. It was also an excuse to have a play and combine different materials I have collected.

The main body is sculpted from baltic amber, the beak and feet are made from red coral, the aye is made from mother of pearl and Whitby jet, and the himotoshi collar is made from red dear antler. The detail on the tail was completed using Japanese urushi.

This netsuke is the smallest i have made to date and only measures 25mm nose to tail and is around 8mm thick. I signed it discreetly on the back as it is too small to take a bold signature.