Artist Profile: Kaylyn Messer

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Brianne

Brianne

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The winner of the 2021 Virtual Carving on the Edge Festival’s Kestrel Tool giveaway is Kaylyn Messer. We got in touch with her to get to know her and hear about her carving journey. 

It was after watching a chance spoon carving demo two years ago that Kaylyn Messer decided to start with spoons. The simple utensil provides a good starting place, as they are portable, easy to work on in the evenings, and one can move through the carving from start to finish fairly quickly. A self-described “hobby carver,” she likes to carve functional pieces that have a utility.  Carving pieces like spoons and bowls, she can gift them to friends, and the gift becomes integrated into their life. In her words, Kaylyn carves as a way to stay connected: “something my hands have created is contributing to the meal that they are making.” For herself, carving is meditative and good for mental health, but it also gives a sense of satisfaction that you can revisit every time you use what you’ve made. She doesn’t sand her pieces, and notes that, when you wash the pieces under running water, you can feel each knife cut and stroke. “It’s very satisfying. It makes you proud of the work you did.” 

Kaylyn Messer’s hand carved spoon collection

Like many during the pandemic, Kaylyn found herself home with more time on her hands. Her work in the tech industry, specializing in customer experience, afforded her the opportunity to work from home. With two hours cut off her commute, she had time to dedicate towards something more meditative that would continue to connect her to the land where she lives on the traditional territories of the Snoqualimie and Coast Salish people. Woodcarving provided a creative outlet and one that drew upon various threads in her past. Growing up on a farm, with a “dad who was handy and a mom who was crafty,” she was exposed to plenty of hands-on handicrafts, including woodcarving. Then, prior to her move to Snoqualmie, she worked at kayak guiding companies, first in Port Alberni and then Alaska. It was here that she learned how to make stitch-and-glue kayaks and carve paddles. “A kayak paddle was probably the first 3D thing I carved.” Her time as kayak guide rooted her in values that still guide her life today and continue to inform her carving. 

Hand-carved whale ladle

Kaylyn finds inspiration in nature, natural shapes and textures. Working with wood that has been collected sustainably is important to her and guides what she creates. Her first spoons were made from branches that had fallen from a tree on her property. Applewood and birch have come her way as donations and gifts from friends and neighbours. She has started using leaves from her yard as templates for her spoon carving, and she works with green wood that she can salvage from storms and arborists.

The virtual format of the festival is familiar territory for Kaylyn. At the beginning of her carving journey, she connected with an online carving community, Rise Up and Carve, where she can share space, templates and techniques with other carvers. She has both the practical and community resources to support her in her learning process, which at this stage of her carving journey is focussed on technique. Recently, she has graduated from spoons to bowls. During the Open Carving Area and Virtual Discussion Forum events at the festival, she brought her newest project: a balance bowl. Her biggest takeaway from the festival was the community. “We are very lucky to be doing this,” she says. “We are lucky to be able to create something with our hands and to have other people to share it with.”  

So what are her plans for her winnings? Carving bowls requires a new tool. “Kestrel has some beautiful adzes,” Kaylyn says and is looking forward to adding an adze to her collection. If you want to learn more about Kaylyn, follow her carving journey or check out her beautiful photography, check out her website at http://www.kaylynmesser.com/ or follow her on Instagram @kaylynmesser. 

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Carving on the Edge

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