Daniel Ponde BA (Hons) Historic Woodcarving and Gilding 2nd Year / 2020/21 City & Guilds of London
I've applied for Ornamental Woodcarving & Gilding course because of my passion for woodcarving since I was a child.
Through years of self-taught practice working with wood and experimenting different techniques I managed to gain experience and solidify what I believe it was an innate passion for woodcarving. I started carving when I was about 11 years old thanks to my father who took me to visit one of the local wood carvers from my town. With him, I learned the basics of carving and simple joinery, wondering always about the possibilities of what I could create with the hand tools. My father was really proud of the works I was able to create and soon I had my works (carvings and drawings) being exhibited at my primary school. Having teachers and other children impressed by work filled me with joy and I knew then what I wanted for my life.
Every day, as an apprentice, I worked and learned new things from my teacher and even helped him with his house chores due to his age. Three or four years later my teacher’s health deteriorated as he got older and began to lose his sight. I continued practicing, now working independently, teaching myself the use of all the tools that my teacher passed on to me, including his workbench and chisels (!).
I was 16 then and in no time I had my own little workshop (a small storage room) made
by my father in our house. I worked on small commissions from different customers who were sent to me by my old tutor! The orders varied from small picture frames to shields for animal skulls, wooden spoons, tools’ handles like axes and hammers. After a few years through this amazing wood craft journey I had to leave the workshop to concentrate on my education. I was sad to leave my woodwork for school, which I was not interested in, subconsciously I knew that I was not able to stay away from working with wood for long. I still pursued my studies and used to visit my parents twice a week travelling from the city to my town. My time at home was spent in my workshop. I used to carve from early morning until late at night which followed by strong headaches as my little studio had no natural light.
During my high school time I looked for jobs as a wood carver but there was nothing as such. Eventually luck struck, I found a small business run by two young guys where they did wood carving and restoration of antique furniture mainly from France and Italy.
When they saw my passion for woodwork they offered me a job, I started on the following day, working every day after school.
I worked at this business for two years and leaned much about restoration of old furniture, furniture paintings, broken furniture, the use of wood fillers and much more. My interest always lay in carving, I was always asking for permission to see how objects were made (for a child like me, thirsty for progress, those objects were so beautiful). For some reason the wood carver at this business wasn’t keen to teach or show what he knew and tried to keep me busy doing something else, far from the carving workshop area. I was satisfied with the opportunity to study the carvings made on the furniture. However, one day they let me go telling me that the business wasn’t doing well. At that point I had just finished school so I went back home, with a lot more experience and knowing that my work was much better.
This is my gilding work on a carved frame made by one of the woodcarvers from the restoration company
I was thirsty to become more professional in my craft and I started dreaming big of everything I wanted to change in my workshop. It wasn’t easy to realise my dream. My parents have always been supportive of me but, like most of the people in Romania, they were affected by the economic crisis. I had to leave home again to find a job in the city for employment. I believed at that time that after a few months I would have been able to replace my tools (the same tools that were passed on by my old tutor who had them, second-hand, since he was young). It was, however, harder than I thought, as it was for any young person like me.
I was invited by a cousin to come to London to help renovate a house, attracted by the possibility of being able to replace my tools and further develop my skills. But just when I was about to leave my father was taken in hospital after a serious work accident. I made the heavy heart decision to leave, leaving behind a father in hospital and a mother with disabilities.
A while has passed and the project work with my cousin was finishing and I continuously looked for a job in woodcarving or craft related, or any work that could allow me the opportunity to work with wood again. London always impressed me with its historical architecture and just inspired me to want to create work. During this time I worked as a banqueting porter for about 260 hours per month to pay my bills. In my second year I got a job as a mechanic technician (this is what I studied in high school) and I could even begin helping my parents.
I live in a house, sharing a room with a good friend, and in the backyard there was a shed used for storage, I cleaned and repaired the roof, floors, windows and door. I began using this space for my practice.
In 2018 I first heard about City & Guilds of London Art School and visited at an open day during a degree show. For the first time I saw the things I was dreaming for and soon after I prepared my application for the course only to realise that I was not financially prepared.
In 2019 I applied for the second time, now more prepared and informed about the Art School and how I could support myself financially. I will continue working to make ends meet.
Below are pictures of some of my works before the Art School:
This my first woodcarving made London!
In this picture you can see two decorative wooden spoons .They were made on order for a lovely customer!
Candle holder in the shape of a flower, poplar wood, 250mm x 250mm, January 2019. I created and made this as a gift.
The statuette to the right is one of my restoration works done in 2014. The base was completely damaged so I recreated a new one. The restoration process included painting and gilding.
Commission work of deer skulls shields for an Austrian hunter
Last year, I think it was one of my best times, being all dedicated on what I like the most and I say this because it was hard before to believe that one day I would study again this lovely craft instead of working at random jobs.
All year I learned and opened my eyes like never before regarding my artistic skills. Learning and studying every day until evening many times being the last one in the studio. It was a daily discipline with a vision of achievement, absorbing everything was new for me. While I was moving forward with the course I was involved on a variety of projects like wood carving, drawing, lettering, clay sculpting which it was completely new for me as a material and techniques used. Also, in the beginning of the year we learned joinery that helped me a lot in clarifying some basic stuff about it and at the same time it was very helpful to work and build up my carved frames.
I highlight the importance of these frames because they are my biggest achievement during the first year and for their complexity and the way they were created because they not only required carving skills but also knowledge to structure the joinery with accuracy using hand tools. So I was combining a new skill (the frame joinery) with my carving practice and by doing this I could feel what’s very close to architectural carving. The other projects on wood carving class were also challenging because they were new to me like the design and styles but having experience in caving I could manage the shape of the wood and even move my experience to a higher level.
All other projects really deserved my attention as they were as important. For example the clay modelling projects were all new to me with regards to the material, techniques and tools. The Drawing projects with new techniques of drawing is vital in developing my imagination for carving and understanding better the shapes and forms… it was just very helpful and I was full of joy working on these projects!
This is my own project! I was very inspired to carve out an ornamental flower from Meranti wood which wasn’t so friendly to my chisels! I done this projects while I was working on the school projects, in same time!
This is the second frame project I made in the spring term! It is called “Sansovino”! Named after the architect and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino, the name of the frame was probably first used by the scholars in the second half of the 19th century, when art history was established as an academic discipline.
This it was the last project for the drawing class. Tonal drawing following the bust portrait of the famous printmaker and print publisher John Raphael Smith made by the English sculptor Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey 13 years after Smith’s death!
Self-project during the lockdown:
I hope you enjoyed the reading my summary and that you liked my work.