Janel Jacobson

Artist Statement

Each time that I resume carving I am reminded of how much I enjoy what I do for my life’s work. Carving is the continuum that has driven my small-sculptural explorations since the mid 1970’s. I first carved stoneware and then porcelain clays until 1995, when I began to carve wood. The subjects are often small in life and inspire me to work in a similar, small scale.

Boxwood is a very hard and dense, light colored wood that is well suited to fine detail work. It is my favored choice for carving. I use other dense and close-grained hard woods, amber, tusk and antler, each offering interesting color and textural variations.

Tools are very essential partners on my carving journey. With them I can change flat surfaces into dimensional imagery, carving to bring the light and shadow of the form and detail to a point where the piece begins to sing visually. There are intrinsic challenges to carving on such a small scale. Tools that suit my needs are not found commercially so I make the tools that I use. Carving small requires magnification for careful tool placement while carving the fine, sculptural details.

With an interest in illustrating what has intrigued me in nature I begin by envisioning a scenario within an intimate habitat. I look to what is characteristic of each subject and of the particular wood to be carved to create the composition. I work carefully and intentionally with hand tools, rather than with less controllable power tools, to render form and detail as the composition develops. Each shape, to the smallest element, is deliberately formed and judged against its neighbors for its contribution to light and shadow, textural balance or contrast, directionality and weight; these being a few among many considerations. I sometimes think of the complexity of intertwining musical notes that create a mood or a feeling being analogous to the interconnected, visual components of the complex and detailed small sculptures.

Do my pieces have a function beyond being viewed? One becomes more familiar with the small sculptures when handling them. To feel the shape and texture, while sensing the weight and warmth of the wood is, in a way, seeing the piece with one’s fingers. I have watched as people have discovered a quiet place within themselves while holding a finished sculpture. To aid in a moment of such remembrance of beauty in nature, is a sublime gift to pass on to another.