Chip carving basically describes any type of carving that uses the technique of taking out small “chips” from a peace of wood to create beautiful and intricate patterns or pictures in its surface.
The term “chip carving” is thought to have first appeared in 1888 AD in England, and is apparently a direct translation of the German word “Kerbschnitt”.
However, the art of chip carving itself is as old as any art in existence. It is safely assumed that it is the earliest form of carving ever to exist, and we do know that for millennia, great crafts men from all over the world have used it to decorate great cathedral’s across Europe and Asia while us common folk use it to decorate any number of house hold implements. Some for a little money, others for our own pleasure.
The earliest surviving pieces of chip-carving originated in Egypt, where the extremely dry climate is very good for preserving wood, and were carved some 6000 odd years ago.Written record’s exist that suggest the Greeks were also avid carvers, but sadly, no examples of their work have survived to this day. Having said that however, we do know that the Romans where very impressed by the Greek carvings, and that they were very much influenced by them in their own wood work.
Coming forward in time, we see that Northern India became a huge influence in the world of chip carving during the Moghul period, when in accordance with the tenets of Islam, representations of the human form were denounced, and patterns of great geometrical complexity became the norm. Because of this, the chip carvers ability to create amazingly intricate and beautiful patterns became highly developed on the East side of the world.
It is supposed that the patterns they created then spread to Europe through trade.
Other examples of how chip carving has always been a wide spread art, lies in ancient China’s elaborate scroll work, among the beautiful wall design’s on Japanese castle’s, and even in the designs of many of the southern islands like Fiji.
Today, us novices are writing our own chapter in it’s history, and I for one think that it’s an art well worth keeping alive.