Fan Carver’s World was established in 2002 by husband-and-wife team Sally and David Nye of Fennville, Mich. The two artisans are woodcarvers as well as historians, who first discovered the art of fan carving at a woodcarving show in the late ’90s, and are now in the business of selling related artwork, books, tools and wood to promote this seemingly lost art to an international market.
“Fan carving has a rich history of which little has been written,” says Sally Nye. “We work with museums and universities in Europe and Scandinavia to do our research. Then we also work with the few fan carvers in those countries as well. It is almost a lost art and we are working diligently to preserve it.”
Sally and David have traced fan carving back to the early part of the 17th century. It was common to have a fan-carved dove in the church pulpit at that time. The fan-carving process involves slicing a single piece of wood — usually wet white cedar — into thin blades, or feathers, and then turning and interlocking them to create a three-dimensional design.
Basically, any entry-level carver can create fan art objects using the appropriate caving tools, such as the Flexcut brand riving knife and 3" drawknife — both of which the Nye’s designed for the tool company. The three basic cuts include the interlock cut, the hinge cut and riving/slicing of individual blades. The difficulty is getting the delicate interlocking fan blades nice and thin, which can only be obtained through plenty of practice. Once finished, the art gets sprayed with a light coat of shellac.
The books Sally and David Nye have written and published are geared for Americans as well as Europeans. The Nye’s regularly teach fan art at woodcarving clubs and woodworking schools around the world and will be teaching the art at a carving school in Austria this fall.