Ken Smith - The wood-carver from Worsthorne who found success after 50 years

PUBLISHED: 17:28 04 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:19 20 February 2013

Ken Smith - The wood-carver from Worsthorne who found success after 50 years

Ken Smith - The wood-carver from Worsthorne who found success after 50 years

A woodcarver spent 50 years honing his skills and has now found success at the age of 78. Amanda Griffiths went to meet him Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Woodcarver Ken Smith is inspired by a love of the outdoors and, luckily for him, he doesnt have to venture further than the end of his garden to find it.


His extraordinarily beautiful bird carvings have been flying off the shelves of the Revolve gallery in Clitheroe - sold almost as soon as they go on display.


This is the 50th year Ken has been carving. He started with stone reliefs sold by a friend who had a gallery in the Lake District.


Now 78, the former engineer from Worsthorne, near Burnley, is known
for his wooden birds, although he also has a passion for bowls carved from pieces of exotic wood.


Since starting to sell his work through Revolve, Ken is enjoying a level of success like never before. Hes sold 21 pieces since the gallery opened in October last year and modestly says its all down to gallery owner Sophia Smiths knack of displaying them correctly.


I met Sophia at the annual Art in the Garden event at Samlesbury Bottoms a couple of years ago, says Ken. They open their gardens and invite a few local artists to display their work. Sophia saw it and asked if I would put some in her gallery.


Id done OK at three or four other galleries in the past, but they really hadnt sold anything for six months or so, so I went home carved some more birds, gathered up the rest of my work and brought it here.


When we arrived on opening night it was amazing! The front and side windows were filled with practically nothing but my work. It made all
the difference.


This phase of his career started when his sculptor wife, Joan, said she wanted a bird to go on top of the gate post at home. I told her Id never carved anything in the round before, so she said it was about time I did!, he laughs.


That bird never went on the gate post, she liked it too much! I started carving a few more and going to galleries and craft fairs and it just went from there.


I make a range of birds, if I carve one its got to be the right size - I dont do miniatures.


I particularly like working in pitch pine. That smells fantastic but it doesnt lend itself well to the smaller birds. I also like working in cherry which comes up a nice brown colour as well as yew which is fantastic once its oiled.


I like it to speak for itself and I try not to colour the wood. With things like robins its unavoidable - you cant have a robin without a red breast. Also tree creepers are naturally lighter underneath, so I bleach the underneath of the carvings to make them look authentic.


Ken, who describes himself as a craftsman works from a shed in his back garden. Materials are in plentiful supply, revealing his large family (between them Ken and Joan have six children, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren) are always bringing bits of wood home for him.


Basically they scavenge for for me, he laughs. Theyre all outdoors types and will all keep an eye out for me. A few years back we were at Arnside and the National Trust people were doing some work cutting the yew trees. I told them what I did and we came back to find a pile of wood by the car!


Its also useful having a sculptor for a wife - I was having some problems with a kingfisher I was carving and after talking to Joan about it she knocked me up a model in clay, which was exactly what I wanted to achieve and was a great reference point.


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