Book Review: The Lost Carving

After seeing the fabulous artwork of seventeenth century master wood carver Grinling Gibbons, David Esterly made the fateful decision to quit his profession and take up carving. Years of work gained Esterly a degree of mastery yet he frequently felt as though he was simply emulating Gibbons work without making any significant progress as a creative force. On March 31, 1986, a fire swept through the upper floors of London’s historic Hampton Court Palace where several magnificent pieces of Gibbons carvings were housed. This disaster provided a unique opportunity to delve deep into Gibbon’s work, his techniques and supreme mastery. Esterly moved to Britain for a yearlong sojourn as he attempted to replace damaged sections of a wall drop amidst a stew of assorted bureaucracies. During that year, Esterly learned much about the master carver and even more about himself, all carefully recorded in three notebooks. Years later, Esterly revisited those long forgotten notebooks to provide this deeply personal look at the creative process, work meditation and finally put to rest a sense of guilt that plagued him since the restoration effort.

Esterly has crafted a warm, reflective look at the gentle art of creative meditation, the frustration of endless political minefields, snarls and some dedicated staff who want to see the beauty of a masterwork restored to its former glory. This is a lovely memoir encompassing the many aspects of creating true works of art including self-doubt, mistakes and breakthroughs that even the non-artistic can appreciate.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.