‘Carving the Acanthus Leaf’ Now in Store


You can now place a pre-publication order for Mary May’s “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” in the Lost Art Press online store. The book is $49, which includes free shipping in the United States and Canada.

Customers who place a pre-publication order will receive a free and immediate pdf download of the book. The book is expected to ship in late November. You can download a sample chapter of the book here.

For customers outside the United States, we will offer this book to all our international retailers (a list of retailers is here). It is the decision of the retailer as to whether they carry this book or not.

“Carving the Acanthus Leaf” is May’s first book and is the result of three years of intense work. It is a deep exploration into this iconic leaf, which has been a cornerstone of Western ornamentation for thousands of years. May, a professional carver and instructor, starts her book at the beginning. She covers carving tools and sharpening with the efficiency of someone who has taught for years. Then she plunges the reader directly into the work.

It begins with a simple leaf that requires just a few tools. The book then progresses through 13 variations of leaves up to the highly ornate Renaissance and Rococo forms. Each lesson builds on the earlier ones as the complexity slowly increases.

One remarkable aspect of the book is how May has structured each chapter. Each chapter begins with a short discussion of how this particular leaf appears in architecture or the decorative arts, with photos May has taken from her travels around the world. Then you learn how to draw the leaf from scratch. Though you are provided with a full-size or scaled drawing of each leaf, May insists that drawing the leaf makes it easier to carve it. Each step of the drawing process is illustrated in detail.

As May explains how to carve the leaf, she augments each step with multiple photos and illustrations that show where and how each tool should move through the work. The result is that each leaf can have as many as 100 photos and illustrations of each step of the carving process.

In addition to the intense instruction, May also provides a short essay between every chapter that illustrates her journey from a young pumpkin carver to the world-renowned carver she is today. The overall effect is like apprenticing with a master carver, with both the demanding instruction and the personal experiences that make woodworking such a rich craft.

“Carving the Acanthus Leaf” is manufactured to survive many hours of use in the shop. The heavy paper is both glued and sewn so the book will lie flat on your benchtop without the pages coming loose. The pages are protected by cloth-covered hardboards and a tear-resistant dust jacket to protect its contents. This is a permanent book – produced and printed entirely in the United States.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to ‘Carving the Acanthus Leaf’ Now in Store

  1. marymay485 says:

    This is SO exciting! I never knew what kind of work was involved in writing a book, but now I know. The behind-the-scenes collaborative (and intense, and sometimes chaotic) work of author, editor and publisher helps produce a seamless, finished product. Thank you all involved for making this an incredible experience!

    Please note: video lessons that go along with the chapters in my book will be available on my website (http://www.marymaycarving.com) once the book is printed in November. These will not be part of my online carving school, but will be available for separate purchase.

    Thanks everyone for your patience!

  2. Bob Easton says:

    Order your basswood folks. There’s lots to learn and practice from this book.

    BTW, sharpen your pencils too. Learning to draw these leaves takes one to entirely new, dare I say “sublime,” levels of satisfaction.

    It’s a wonderful resource for every traditional woodcarver.

    • tombuhl says:

      I do not see myself carving any acanthus leaves and had not considered drawing them either, but, Bob, I will accept your challenge/suggestion and draw a few. We can all use some sublime moments now and then. I look forward to spending time with Mary’s book. A journey well worth taking for many reasons.

  3. jefski says:

    Ordered, thanks! Sounds like it may be too late for the printed version, but just in case, see the page headings on ix and xi (“FORWORD”).

  4. studioffm says:

    Wow what great addition to our knowledge base. I will certainly get one for the Rowden library when it comes out in the U K . Lost Arts Press as says on the nameplate.

  5. Hanna Joyce says:

    How exciting! Mary has the rare talent of not only being a world class carver, but able to teach the skills as well. Congratulations, Mary, on your first book. May this be just the beginning of more books to come.

  6. Jon Hershey says:

    I have spent the last couple of hours reading this title on a kindle and it has really exceeded my expectations. It is a beautifully designed book so the physical book should be even more impressive. Mary May is a very good instructor; the material is clear and she has a very pleasant manner. So many carving books and magazines are for those who want “easy 5 minute carvings” or they feature a pattern with a big slouch hat pulled down over a figure’s eyes so you don’t have to learn to carve anything difficult. That is no way to increase one’s skill. I think anyone who is serious about learning to carve well would gain something from this title whether they are experienced or a beginner.

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