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The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making
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The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  161 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
“A beautiful, intricate meditation on creativity and discovery, on fire and rebirth.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

Awestruck at the sight of a Grinling Gibbons carving in a London church, David Esterly chose to dedicate his life to woodcarving—its physical rhythms, intricate beauty, and intellectual demands. Forty years later, he is the foremost practitioner of Gibbons’s forgotten t
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 27th 2012 by Viking
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Rebecca Foster
Jan 20, 2015 Rebecca Foster rated it really liked it
American woodcarver Esterly restored Grinling Gibbons’s limewood carvings at Hampton Court Palace after a 1986 fire. Revisiting his diary from that year, he meditates on the role of brain vs. body in the creative process and asks how we can be faithful to history. I particularly loved the last lines of his prologue: “The workroom begins to fade away. On go the hands. The mind slips its mooring and lets the river take it where it will.”

The black-and-white photographs, showing some of Gibbons’s ca
Feb 06, 2013 Piepie rated it really liked it
This book is a journal about the author's involvement in the restoration of carvings by Grinling Gibbons in the palace at Hampton Court after a devastating fire. It is also the story of the author's journey away from academia and scholarly work and into the world of artisan carving. Always a scholar, the author shares his knowledge of Gibbons and his world, leads us through the detective & guess work of restoration, exposes the fiefdoms within the museum, art & curatorial worlds, reveali ...more
Louise Smith
Aug 26, 2015 Louise Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: really-good
This is a wonderful book. The author/artist does an amazing job of describing the process of making (as opposed to designing) something. He writes beautifully. Check his website for more photos of things described in this book and for pictures of his own amazing work.

This book describes copying a carving by Grinling Gibbons lost in the Hampton Court fire in the 90's. It makes me want to read the author's book on Gibbons. Can't wait for it to arrive! One thing that makes this book special for me
Apr 30, 2013 Marion rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Usually when I read non-fiction I read a novel in between sections - I seem to need a break from it. With this book I just had to keep turning the pages. David Esterly took on a contract in the 1980s to replace a fantastically detailed 17th century Grinling Gibbons limewood carving destroyed by a fire in Hampton Court Palace. You would think that a book about woodcarving would be boring to someone who knows nothing about it - but along with talk about chisels and wood Esterly shares what he lear ...more
Nov 05, 2015 Sophie rated it it was ok
Well-written, but a little flamboyant for my taste; the moving between seasons and locations and time wasn't as clear as it could be for the reader. Glad Esterly has built himself a profession that makes him happy, though he seems to gloat in it a bit more than I like, albeit unintentionally.

"Since a king would not wish to be disturbed by the tread of courtly feet above his grand chambers, Wren had filled the spaces between the floor joists with tens of thousands of small seashells, brought up
Dec 02, 2014 Scott rated it really liked it
Author David Esterly is a professional woodcarving artist, whose work finds inspiration from (among other sources) the work of Grinling Gibbons, a late 17th- to early 18th century Dutch/English woodcarver whose work defied stereotypical craft carving's assumptions about the limitations of carving in wood. "Floating on the reredos, the wall behind the altar, was a shadowy tangle of vegetation, carved to airy thinness. Organic forms, in an organic medium. My steps slowed, and stopped. I stared. Th ...more
A friend recommended this book to me in the fall, but it took me several months to pick it up. Once it was in my hands, I devoured it. This book gave me everything I want in a good read. I became immersed in a subject (wood-carving) that I know nothing about; I learned about people, places and things that I don't encounter in my daily life and Esterly's writing was so good that I forgot that the "real" world exists.

Not that Esterly is making up his story. In 1986, there was a fire in Hampton Cou
Jul 01, 2013 Trent rated it liked it
A meditation on creativity, as the author recalls carving a new version of a lost carving for Hampton Court Palace. The process of creation is described, too--applicable to anyone who writes, plays music, or even gardens.
Feb 20, 2014 Clive rated it it was amazing
Couldn't put it down. An amazingly erudite and passionate exploration of the physicality of creation and the hubris brought about by administrators. After spending a year painstakingly copying a burned drop by Grinling Gibbons, David Esterly produced an ethereally beautiful pale cream carving in lime wood, exactly as it would have looked from the master's chisels and gouges over 300 years ago. Esterly documents the difficulties and joys of this time and muses on modern art and craftsmanship.
Jan 06, 2013 Jilanne rated it it was amazing
Reviewed this fabulous book on my blog:
Jilanne Hoffmann
May 26, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book with its wandering path through art, philosophy, woodcarving and restoration is the type of quirky book you either love or hate. I loved it. After a fire at Hampton Court destroys irreplaceable 17th century Grinling Gibbons decorative carvings, the author becomes involved in the effort to replace them, which involves understanding how they were created and creative decisions complicated by overlapping bureaucracies. The numerous pictures demonstrate Grinling Gibbons' and the author's m ...more
James Brown
Aug 14, 2013 James Brown rated it really liked it
I wonder if most people will love this book as much as I do--I'm interested in carving, though I'm a rank beginner, and I'm interested in Yeats, whose presence in the book is significant. I'm also interested in the value of making things, which is one of the themes here. Making things is, I think, one of the things that make us human ... and maybe the only positive thing that separates us from the other animals. I think a lot of things converge on this idea, including even the decline and impend ...more
Bryan Kibbe
Oct 03, 2013 Bryan Kibbe rated it it was amazing
This is a thoughtful and rich memoir centered around the experience of restoring famous carving work by Grinling Gibbons that was damaged in a fire at Hampton Court in England. Before reading this I did not know much about carving, and found myself astonished by what could be accomplished using simple lime wood. Esterly, besides being a skilled carver, is also an excellent writer who has a poet's touch for description and rather than creating a plodding history of restoration work, he instead mo ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Joyce rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-choice
I have this weird habit of reading several books at once. This one was selected by one of the two book clubs that put up with me. Of the 13 books I'm reading, this was the one I was least interested in and it was hard to read it and not think of the other 12 books that I had chosen. Therefore I probably didn't give this a fair shake. It is well written. A wee bit too self indulgent for my tastes, however.
May 20, 2015 Wendy rated it really liked it
This book belongs in that very select group of books by an artist who is also a writer, exploring the processes and problems of working in a physical medium. Van Gogh's letters are at the top of that select group. Esterly, who wrote a thesis on Yeats and Plotinus, is fascinating on the transit from immersion in scholarship to immersion in and rediscovery of the lost art of limewood carving, the work of whose greatest English exemplar, Grinling Gibbons, he was hired to replicate after it was inci ...more
Oct 14, 2014 Polly rated it really liked it
Excellent book, and it may make you want to run out and carve something, even if you never have before! It's a memoir, and also (as the subtitle says) about making/creating physical things, and it's also full of nice historical things about woodcarving and woodcarvers.
Alex Colangelo
Feb 24, 2016 Alex Colangelo rated it it was ok
An interesting story about the restoration of 17th century carvings lost in a fire, heavily weighed down by the author's endless metaphors, literary references and philosophising about nature, art and every other thought that came to his mind.
Donna Wellard
May 04, 2014 Donna Wellard rated it liked it
an enjoyable read about the authors year spent re-creating a celebrated carving by Grinling Gibbons, destroyed by fire at Hampton Court. A fascinating tale of what its like to work with wood,and the poetry Mr. Esterly creates with limewood and the flowers, leaves and buds so true you could smell them.

It also chronicles the challenges he faced along the way including the clashes with administrators at hampton court and english heritage. Why is it that such poor arts administrators always seem to
Jan 14, 2013 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I love all things Tudor and I especially love Hampton Court Palace, so when I saw this book had something to do with one of my favorite places I decided it must be read! David Esterly is a craftsman, a carver by trade, who has made some extraordinary pieces of art, so when a fire swept through some of the rooms of Hampton Court back in the 1986 and destroyed a few of the beautiful carvings of Grinling Gibbons, Esterly was tapped to restore and recreate some of these masterpieces. He spent over a ...more
Leslie kuris
Oct 07, 2014 Leslie kuris rated it really liked it
I could only recommend this book to makers, travelers and patient, literate people-i liked it. Beautiful writing. If you create you will understand-it is a complicated road.
Hilary Gould
Jan 01, 2014 Hilary Gould rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, autobiography
The foremost practitioner of Gibbon's forgotten carving techniques David writes with grace and great craftsmanship of his experience recreating one of Gibbon's drops after the Hampton Court Palace fire in the 1980s. The book sways backwards and forwards through time correlating together the act of physically creating art with the process of writing. David studies Yeats at Cambridge before his exposure to carving after seeing Gibbons carvings at St. James Church. It's a beautiful read and an intr ...more
Barbara Boles
Feb 25, 2014 Barbara Boles rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book - about the author's finding his niche in making art rather than scholarship. But, there is much interesting scholarship here, about Gibbons, and the various technical discoveries that allowed him to create his work. The descriptions of the wonderful and frustrating project at Hampton Court were terrific; my only complaint is that there should have been more and better pictures; luckily I found some in an article in the Harvard Magazine - to see good photographs of this wor ...more
Really interesting story of the author and his art form. It is fascinating to hear how people who do lost arts started and how they continue. I think woodworking is beautiful and wish I had the patience to do it myself. David is wonderfully philosophical about his craft!

Cover Art - Very Interesting. I would pick it up at the bookstore to see what it was about.

*Disclosure: This ebook was provided to me free of charge through for the sole purpose of an honest review. All thoughts, comments, and r
Brad Hayes
Feb 15, 2014 Brad Hayes rated it liked it
Enjoyed the book, but would have preferred more of Esterly the carver and less of Esterly the English lit scholar.
Dec 12, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
Fascinating story about Esterly's creative process and inspirations. I suggest reading the author's blog, which he keys to each chapter, as you read the book. The blog provides additional photographs, which helped me better understand Gibbons' techniques to create these multi layer dynamic carvings. I would have liked additional illustrations on the book.
Sandra Yates
May 02, 2013 Sandra Yates rated it really liked it
A meditative memoir from master-carver David Easterly as he is chosen to replace a drop by the supreme carver Grinling Gibbons at Hampton Court Palace after a disastrous fire there. An unflashy and thoughtful memoir of what it means to create with your hands - with rare flashes of venom at sculptors who design but never actually get their hands dirty!
Jan 22, 2013 Sandy rated it really liked it
Really interesting - about a style of wood carving that was popular in the 1600's (?)
I'm always interested in reading about how people do what they do. The author is a modern day expert in this lost art - he's also very eloquent!
Kind of a memoir of his experience spending a year recreating a carving that was lost in a fire in Hampton Palace.
Jun 25, 2013 Bobbie rated it really liked it
I knew nothing about wood carving and I'll admit that I struggled to read it in the beginning. However, I found this book to be interesting to read about the author's experience with wood carving and how he turned into his art form and life. Esterly's writing is exceptional. I would like to see his actual wood carvings.
Mar 05, 2013 Larry rated it really liked it
If you are a woodcarver or are a fan you are going to love this book. A story about a legendary carver of the 17th century written by a 21st century woodcarving legend. Plus the pictures of Gibbons and Esterly's creations are the frosting on the cake.
Morgan griggs
Feb 18, 2013 Morgan griggs rated it liked it
i won this book in a good reads first giveaway

i really liked this book, the carvings were so beautiful. i really enjoyed the story and will be sharing this book with friends. also loved the cover.
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