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Rooster Ale Bowl

Welcome to my first post on this new blog. Since August 2018, I’ve been working with Master Woodcarver Phil Odden of Norsk Wood Works Barronett, WI). It is through a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts that I am apprenticed this year to study Norwegian Ale Bowls as Traditional Folk Art. I have been interested in ale bowls for some time and learning this art form through Phil Odden is a great opportunity. To date, I’ve been creating ale bowls with different animal head shapes, a rooster, dragon, and a horse, but those projects have been based on the work of others. The same thing happens with the carving designs, as you always start with what has already worked. However, now I am learning to incorporate original designs into the ale bowls as both the shape and the ornamental carving. I can tell you it is an exciting transition to make.

Case in point, at Phil’s urging, I found an example of an ale bowl that was made in Norway in the 1800’s. I liked its depiction of a rooster and have utilized some of its design elements. Mine is a work in progress, but I started by adding a number of acanthus carving designs to the sides, the tail, the neck and head, and also on the front and back. In many ways, I have made this ale bowl into an original carving. The creative process began with the inspiration I got from looking at an antique and traditional ale bowl form. Soon after imagining a different and unique final form, it all came together as original with my own carved ornamentation.

This is my second ale bowl which incorporates a low ridge and gives the appearance of splitting the inner bowl into two halves. Well known bowl carver Dave Fisher often incorporates a ridge feature in the insides of his creations. Some of Phil’s Norwegian acanthus carved bowls have ridge features in them as well. Personally, I like the look of it.

As I excavated the bowl on this new ale bowl, I also began to imagine how the tail might look as carved. After a few sketches I added some acanthus and here is how it looks now. Mind you this carving will pop with some color.


As you can see I haven’t added all the details on the tail yet, but I am pleased with the way it looks. The pencil lines are going to be carved on the acanthus leaves and these are called strike lines. I use a V tool to cut them, but some carvers use a veiner which is U shaped. In my 1.5 years of learning about ale bowl carving, I’ve learned that there is a real art here in placing and cutting those strike lines. You can ruin a good carving by hasty placement of strike lines. I’ve already had to carve off lines that didn’t really compliment the shape of the acanthus leaves.

I really like acanthus carving, after several years of carving classes, and I’ll be incorporating it into many of my upcoming ale bowls. Here is what I am planning to carve on the sides.

I have only roughed out the acanthus design here, but I believe it will be an awesome carving. Again, this was one of my first ale bowl carving designs and I was appreciative of the critique and assistance Phil gave me.

The neck and head will have an acanthus carving design on that also. Here is a sketch of it. I like the layered look so that the acanthus leaves can appear to be shingled on top of each other. Phil has taught me to be mindful of leaving variations in the shape and arrangement of the acanthus leaves so that I avoid repetition which creates less interest by the viewer.


The amazing thing about this kind of carving is that the creative process allows for refinements or adjustments to the carving design along the way. I may begin with a rough idea and then the design evolves into something even better. Can you tell I studied geology and fossilized forms of life? This is it for now.