Charlotte, North Carolina, woodcarver Bill Dominick doesn't believe in the theory that bigger is better. In fact, he actually prefers to carve smaller pieces.
During a recent conversation, Dominick shared a story about how he developed that preference.
"Lee Dukes, the founder of the Charlotte (NC) Wood-carvers Club, told me that big carvings always seem to get the attention and tend to win in shows (assuming they are well carved),” Dominic said. "But Lee brought up a good question: ‘Where do you put a big carving?'"
"Lee said that ‘there is always a place to keep a small carving,' so that is why I do miniatures mostly," Dominic explained.
Dominick, 70, was born and raised in Newberry, South Carolina. He’s been married for 49 years, and has three children and seven grandchildren. He has a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Newberry College; is the technical director for Rutland Plastic Technologies in Pineville, North Carolina; and has resided in Charlotte for the past 35 years.
Dominick started woodcarving in 1982 after watching a neighbor carve—and he was hooked.
"The neighbor introduced me to Lee Dukes, who instructed and offered ideas and patterns for our early projects,” Dominick said. "Lee was always encouraging and promoting woodcarving."
Other early influences came from Tom Wolfe and the carving magazine The Mallet. Meeting and spending time with other carvers and seeing their work and carving techniques also influenced his work. In addition, a book by E. J. Tangerman and classes taught by Desiree Hajny, David Boone and Jim Wilsford helped Dominick in the early stages of his woodcarving career.
Using a pocketknife and linoleum art gouges, Dominick's first project was a half-size duck decoy made of basswood; it was crudely burned and left unpainted.
Dominick finds great inspiration for carving from a few sources.
"The articles in Carving Magazine. Woodcarving Illustrated, and Chip Chats have been very educational, and seeing the quality work that’s being done in the United States inspires me," he said. “Staying active in your local carving club is important and attending other carving shows and meeting those carvers is also important. But the real key t0 getting better is practice. You have to carve regularly to improve."
“I have never stopped carving," Dominick said. “There have been times when work kept me ^гот carving every week, but I always go back to it.
Currently, Dominick is working on mostly small pieces in the one- to five-inch range. Using basswood, he likes to carve small animals and small people and^ is concentrating on getting better with facial expressions. He finishes his carvings by copying techniques from Pete LeClair, Mitch Cartledge, and Mark Akers he dips the carving into Minwax 209 clear and uses multiple thin coats (washes) of acrylic paint. He recoats with the 209 and sometimes uses a topcoat of satin spray or Howard s Feed-N-Wax.
He sharpens his tools by using diamond stones to repair edges and the Tom Ellis sharpening unit with both diamond and leather discs for general honing. He uses good leather strops with both diamond dust and aluminum oxide in 1-3 micron particle size for maintaining sharp edges.
The ideas for his carvings come from magazines, newspapers, yard sales, and flea markets, and his projects can take anywhere from a day to weeks to complete.
Dominick does have recommendations for carvers who are just getting started.
"I would suggest stylized pieces to learn about basic cuts and how to work the wood grain," he said. “The first project Lee gave me was a 1" x 6" block, and he instructed me to carve a perfect round ball on the end. Also, spend your money on quality tools and learn how to sharpen and maintain them.”
Dominick has won the Charlotte Woodcarvers' Showcase "Show Theme” category twice, but one of them really stands out for him.“The CW Club has a Show Theme category in our annual Showcase of Woodcarvings and the winner gets the Lee Dukes award for placing first," he said. "The theme for our thirtieth annual show was Appalachian mountain life and I was fortunate to win that year, and Lee was stij alive to see one of ho students win fh® award. I think winninfl that award while Lee was still alive ha^ meant more to № than any other win. When Dominick is not carving, he likes to spend time with his family—hits wife, children and grandchildren. He enbys gardening, basic woodworking, bird hunting, and fishina |П addition to being active in the Charlotte (NC) Wood-carvers Club, he is active in the Carmel Presbyterian Church, belongs to the Society of Plastics Engineers, and works with a number of organizations related to the plastics industry such as the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and the polymers Center of Excellence. His goals for the next five years are to get better with people and faces and to get more inventive in designs that portray action. He's also working toward full retirement from his plastics job so that he can travel more with his wife and give more back to the community. No matter what, Dominick always finds the time to carve. “I try to carve 2-4 hours a day at least four days a week, and take weekend carving seminars when they are available and I can work them into my schedule," he said. "I have learned that you can listen to a football game and watch the instant replays while carving. I get a lot of carving done during football season (I use a lap apron to catch the chips). Since I carve small pieces, the chips are not too bad, and my wife has become very used to a few wood chips—and I get to vacuum a lot."