Last November, I shared my birthday with my three sons and master woodcarver, Yo Takimoto. Takimoto, who has a degree in architecture from USC, has been practicing the art of wood carving or “kikezuri” for more than 12 years. He left behind a successful career as a city planner in Japan for the peace of mind that wood carving brings to him and his students. He was suffering from a form of amnesia brought on by the stress of work, until a long time friend sent him a “kiridashi” or wood carving knife. It had been 30 years since he’d last used this knife in his boyhood.
Yo gently encouraged us to use the time to empty our heads and listen to our souls. We chatted together and as the wood chips flew, so did the time. If we projected a final shape on to our wood, Yo reminded us “not to think about the final shape.” Our individual pieces of wood did indeed speak to each one of us. At the close of our workshop, Yo asked us to speak about our finished piece and give each a name which he quietly recorded in his notebook. My youngest son named his “lumpy stick” — Yo giggled at this, and recorded the name which he said aptly described the wood so honestly. He is a peaceful and quietly energetic man whom my boys adored spending the duration of the workshop with while whittling for three hours. His gentle demeanor and playful humor was contagious; we felt under the spell of a quiet master.
Takimoto’s classes are offered through Tortoise General Store in Venice and the sessions sell out quickly. I can’t wait to return soon with my boys to whittle and watch Yo Takimoto produce one of his smoothly softened egg shapes. He shares more than wood carving techniques with those whom experience his art and person. One experiences a way to “be in tune with nature while spending hours and hours in the end with the wood… mother nature tends to be forgotten in the urban environment.”