Figures, Patterns Take Shape Under Woodcarver's Skillful Touch

From: The Lincoln County News - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

By Mike Colbert

Woodcarver Valdemar Skov has been working wood in one form or another since his parents started farming in Waldoboro in 1976. "I had my first woodworking experience in my father's shop," said Skov, who has since graduated from carpentry projects around the family farm to high-end carving that has earned him projects at the Governor's mansion in Augusta and notice in This Old House Magazine. Skov works out of a small barn at his home on Miller Road in Waldoboro. Although the shop is equipped with a woodstove, this rainy day finds Skov working barefoot on the wood planked floor. "I started my business carving spoons and other wooden ware in 1991," said Skov, who decided to go into business after selling five of his hand carved spoons while on a trip to Connecticut. Before that, Skov, who has a degree in geology, worked as a cabinetmaker and white water rafting guide. The intricately carved spoons, some of them styled after Welsh Love Spoons or Scandinavian chip carvings, radiate a handcrafted uniqueness in their intricate patterns. Since creating those first pieces, Skov has gone on to carve commissions including mantel-pieces, pediments, corbels, grandfather clocks, benches, podiums and precise antique chairs reproductions. "I specialize in ornamentation carving for furniture and architectural work," said Skov. "I also specialize in exact replications and reproductions for furniture restoration." Skov said he is largely self-taught through research, experimentation and "much practice." He has also studied relief carving under two internationally known woodcarvers, Chris Pye of Herefordshire, England, and Nora Hall of Cloverdale, Oregon. A sculptural project for St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Rockland, the crucified Christ, commands his attention at the time of the interview. Wood chips scattered across the tool bench in his workshop, Skov said he enjoys the feel of "slicing wood with a good sharp tool." Flipping through a book of photographs Skov stops at another project, a pair of angels he carved for a church in North Carolina. They are not cherubic, but seem more like Old Testament, otherworldly seraphim, their wings outstretched as though guarding the Ark of the Covenant. "I do most of my own design work," said Skov, scraping mahogany from the hand of the Christ figure that will hang on the cross above the altar at St. Bernard's. Although the structure of anatomy and the folds of drapery can present technical challenges for a carver, said Skov, "This figure is a representation of something much larger. He just performed the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind." "Every medium has its characteristics and things it's good for," said Skov. "I first got into woodwork because I thought wood was beautiful material, the variety, the colors, the textures. Every piece of wood is different." Skov expects the crucifix to be hung in St. Bernard's by the end of summer.