Introduction to Relief Carving

Mary May
July 15-19

Learn the traditional art of relief carving through a series of skill-building projects. Mary starts with the fundamentals—sharpening tools to a razor-sharp edge, clamping wood, transferring designs onto wood, removing backgrounds, and carving safely with v-chisel and curved gouges. Students carve several different floral designs and scallop shells in shallow relief, and Mary gives particular attention to the drawing, designing, and carving of the traditional acanthus leaf.

Participants learn to think through the entire carving process, from design to completion, including the visualization of overlapping elements, techniques for layering, and tricks to make a design appear much deeper than it actually is. By the end of the week, students are ready to continue carving on their own.

Mary May is a self-employed woodcarver in Charleston, SC, with more than 27 years of professional experience in carving architectural ornament, custom furniture, and sculpture. She originally studied with master woodcarver Konstantinos Papadakis in Minneapolis, and later furthered her skills in England, Greece, and Malaysia. Mary has been a featured guest on the PBS series “The Woodwright’s Shop” and teaches throughout the U.S. and in Europe. She has an online video school and is the author of Carving the Acanthus Leaf (Lost Art Press, 2018). Mary’s website is

Open to all.


Tuition: $810

May-hand-carvingCamelia Flower by Mary May, basswood, 5"x5", 2013May1Tudor Rose carving by Mary May, basswood (4½"x4½"), 2014