The Lost Carving

The Lost Carving

A Journey to the Heart of Making

Book - 2012
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"A beautiful, intricate meditation on creativity and discovery, on fire and rebirth." --Elizabeth Gilbert

Awestruck at the sight of a Grinling Gibbons carving in a London church, David Esterly chose to dedicate his life to woodcarving--its physical rhythms, intricate beauty, and intellectual demands. Forty years later, he is the foremost practitioner of Gibbons's forgotten technique, which revolutionized ornamental sculpture in the late 1600s with its spectacular cascades of flowers, fruits, and foliage.

After a disastrous fire at Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace, Esterly was asked to replace the Gibbons masterpiece destroyed by the flames.  It turned out to be the most challenging year in Esterly's life, forcing him to question his abilities and delve deeply into what it means to make a thing well. Written with a philosopher's intellect and a poet's grace, The Lost Carving explores the connection between creativity and physical work and illuminates the passionate pursuit of a vocation that unites head and hand and heart.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2012
ISBN: 9780670023806
Branch Call Number: B ESTERLY
Characteristics: 279 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Apr 19, 2014

It is not clear to me why after an extended period of time that David Esterly decided to write about his experience helping to restore the wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons housed in Hampton Court Palace. I was initially drawn by the art picture on the front page and the subject (hand carving) but I found myself feeling distracted by the David’s description of his work and the other wood carvers and workers involved in restoring the carvings of Grinling Gibbons. I think that was a big aspect which didn’t work for me. I feel that more credit and respect was due to the five other wood carvers involved in the project (there were a total of six carvers including Esterly). Architect Michael Fishlock who oversaw the project was given a glib one line description mentioning that he was dying of cancer and that he had written “a book” about the project. I feel that all the carvers and Michael Fishlock should have been given more credit as part of the project in Esterly’s book. For more clarity and to fill in the gaps in Esterly’s story, I would encourage readers to read Michael Fishlock’s book “The Great Fire at Hampton Court.” It is filled with information and pictures and details the massive amount of money, workers, time and care and challenges involved in the restoration.


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Apr 19, 2014

From Michael Fishlock ISBN 1-871569-49-4–The carvers –pages 89-93: The first cut, which marked the beginning of the recarving was made by the chisel of Richard Hartley. David (Esterly) worked at Hampton Court for 12 months, the first two of which were spent studying photographs and planning the work. The remaining 10 months were devoted to carving. Trevor Ellis continued to work for two full years after completing the main drop. Three other carvers made a significant contribution to the success of the restoration. Roger Board worked on the drops in the First/Second Presense Chambers, Neil Trinder tackled 4 other pieces form the same room and Laurence Beckford restored the extremely fragile Le Sage carvings. It was a unique achievement and all six carvers realized that this was an episode in their professional lives which would probably never be repeated.


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