My brother learned carving at Camden Shipyard, our childhood playground. He did letter carving for signs and
trails. We decided as teens that we wouldn’t compete with each other, so I made music and he encouraged me,
bringing me records. He did the cool things, like riding a motorcycle and working on fishing boats. I worked on
schooners and yachts. Long after he put carving aside, I picked it up.
I’ve whittled all my life, done quite a bit of woodworking and some boat repair, and I’ve built a couple of small
boats. When I inherited my mother’s carving tools I started relief carving. I work with all kinds of woods, and
boat builders often give me pieces: pine, madrone, butternut, siruaballi, Spanish cedar, Alaskan yellow cedar and
mahogany. There’s nothing like mahogany for dependability.
I’ve always drawn boats and people and I just worked my way into carving them. It’s a challenge to see if I can
make a drawing work in wood. Awhile ago I finished a Dutch Boyer I’d sailed on many years ago. On one side
I carved her from a drawing I’d made, on the other, I carved how the wind might feel moving over the sails. I’ve
done a lot of carvings about the fisheries that were all around us here. I have a childhood memory of my brother
and me out in the islands watching when fishermen were torching herring. They had burning torches out above
the bow and the fish followed the lights into the nets. I did a carving of that.
I’m really a story teller and I discovered I could put some stories in wood. I took the song
The Dark Old Waters
and carved each verse of the men building the ship and sending it off to sea. I love stories; for me, they are the
best way of learning. After I get back from a tour, I can’t remember what I sang. Songs are invisible. Working in
visual media scratches an itch that music can’t. One reason I like carving is that you have something to show for
your time. When I carve reliefs, even if one doesn’t work out, I still have kindling, or at least shavings.
Go r don Bok
Musician, Songwriter, Woodcarver: Camden
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