Sustainability and Values

Kathrina Nellis

The Artist

I was born and raised in Kansas but spent most of my adult life in North Carolina. I was a stay-at-home-mom for a number of years and also taught high school math for a while. I always believed strongly in setting a good example for my kids and demonstrating to them that everyone has creativity and artistic ability.  I didn’t discover woodworking until I got together with my husband, Tracey, but before that I had my own small business selling sewn items like blankets and plush toys for babies and toddlers. I was also an avid quilter during those years.

When Tracey entered my life, woodworking came along with him. I found it to be a natural progression in my creative journey. I love the challenge of carving partly because it is such a contrast to sewing, where, like carpentry, you are joining pieces together in the right way to build what you envisioned. But with carving you are taking away the parts that don’t belong, like doing a puzzle in reverse.  Another thing I like is that in many, or possibly most, cases I don’t even know what it is I’m making until the project is well underway.  Lately I have been gravitating toward pieces that are larger and a bit more abstract and am excited to see where this leads.

I am now back in Kansas and have spent the past few years selling my work at fairs and teaching power carving across the eastern US. It is hugely satisfying to show people the literal and figurative tools that can help propel and empower them to discover their creative potential

I don’t like to impose my will on the wood too much

How did you get into woodworking?

I’ve always been very hands on and DIY, but the only woodworking I had done was some home remodel framing and a little cabinetry.  When Tracey Cheuvront, my now-husband, and I first got together, he was already a full-time woodworker, carving bowls and kitchen utensils.  I was very intrigued by Tracey’s process, and the idea that you don’t need a template, or even a plan, to make something awesome out of wood.  I began dabbling in hand carving and lathe work which was a great way to destress from my emotionally taxing job at the time teaching underprivileged teens.

What inspires your creations?

The things I make are not preconceived or “designed” per se.  I don’t like to impose my will on the wood too much – but rather to let its identity emerge as I carve.  I’m drawn to certain logs, ones that seem to me to already have an idea of what they want to be.  Much like the discarded fabric scraps I use to make quilts, most of my creative woodworks start as random unwanted logs from urban tree removals.

Power carving is the foundation of my whole approach

What made you decide to add power carving to your repertoire?

Adding power carving wasn’t even a question! Tracey bought a TURBOPlane to help him make spoons and bowls, and when I saw how fast and effortless it was to make interesting organic shapes, I had to give it a try. I was instantly hooked and consider the discovery of power carving to be where my real journey as a woodworker and artist began.

What is your favorite power carving tool and why?

The Mini Carver with the Mini Pro bit is my favorite power carving tool.  It has a very intuitive feel and allows me to carve any kind of curve as well as textures and grooves, and reach into recesses. Amazing as it is for detail work, it’s also surprisingly fast at stock removal too. It’s more nimble and less fatiguing than the larger and more aggressive bits, which makes it safer to use for extended periods.

What impact has power carving had on your art/passion/livelihood?

Selling my work and teaching my methods has been my primary source of income for the last few years. Power carving is the foundation of my whole approach, and most of my pieces are simply not possible to make any other way. It allows me not only to create beautiful works, but enjoy the process and share it with others.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking of getting into power carving?

Go for it!  I would suggest exploring with one or two versatile tools and building from there. Power carving can enhance almost all woodworking projects and, in my experience, make the process fast and enjoyable. And it will probably even open up whole new creative avenues!

        

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