An unexpected and delightful carving collection

When I recently went to Vancouver, I knew I had to re-visit a place I found when I was there the year before. It was an old bookstore with an amazing collection, and while I love, love, love books, I wasn’t going back for the literature.

You see, the owner of the book store has an amazing collection of another kind: wooden carvings created by hand in every shape and size. As someone who makes wooden sculptures as part of my living, I was absolutely entranced by the variety of carvings that dotted the book shelves in the Ambleside Book Barn in West Vancouver.

This stylized little guy at Ambleside caught my eye. I brought him home!

There must be hundreds of them, although it is hard to tell because there are so many nooks and crannies filled with the little treasures. Everywhere you looked was little carved gems: sleeping cats, fiddlers, bird decoys, pigs, bears, elephants, Mounties, even the inevitable rooster, and so much more. It was like being in a carving zoo! And, it was heaven for me. I didn’t look at a single book, but spent about 45 minutes with my neck craned upwards towards all the carvings on the shelves.

I had to know the story behind the collection, so I got talking to the owner, Scott. He doesn’t carve himself, but he has a passion for collecting these items “here, there and everywhere”. He does, however, make these most amazing wooden signs that announce the sections around the bookstore. I think he should be selling those, but he is humble about his craft.

While poking around, I felt my heart jump! I located a pair of carvings that were a chubby farm wife and husband, done in a folk style and measuring about 12-inches high. I couldn’t believe my luck! I had tried to buy this pair last year, but because Scott wasn’t in that day, the nice lady at the desk said she didn’t think they were for sale. Could I come back the next day? Unfortunately, we had to fly home, so I never returned. And, here they were still! A year later!

I noticed a number of the carvings had price tags, but these two were perched on a high shelf, so I couldn’t tell if they were for sale. I casually asked Scott “how much?” but he shook his head slowly and said, “No….sorry…I think I have to hang onto those for a while. I just love them.” I knew that feeling. I loved them, too.

I pushed once more, but he did not budge. Well, I had to admit, he had good taste. I did leave with a couple of other lovely little pieces – almost as nice as the ones I coveted. And, after chatting, he felt like an old friend, and he sent us on our way with a stellar recommendation for dinner at a neighborhood fish restaurant that was probably one of the best meals of the trip.

So, I couldn’t hold a grudge. Besides, I know I will be back. Maybe, with persistence, I can convince him to part with that lovely couple. I’m not going to hold my breath. But, you never know.

This little woman from Ambleside had such character. I just had to bring her home!

A close up of the woman’s face.

I found this flying mermaid at Ambleside; she is now a funky addition to my studio space.

Some of my own wood sculptures: two chefs inspired by my love of food!

A wood sculpture I created of a gnome and blue jay; one of our favorite birds (and baseball teams!).

One of the carved Santas I make; although many of them are traditional, I had to make this one ready for summer.

A Saint Francis wood sculpture I created for my dad.

A close up of my Saint Francis; carving the face is my favorite part!

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