Horse Netsuke – A little update

Horse Netsuke in Pear wood,shaping up nicely
The shape of the Horse Netsuke is really coming through.

Since the last Horse Netsuke post I have been concentrating on the overall shape of the horse and the placing of the legs and hooves.

The more I worked on the legs the more I realised it was time to cut the Netsuke from the block of pear wood. In the end you just get to the stage where you can’t get the tools into the spaces you need them to go as the rest of the block is in the way.

This Netsuke was relatively easy to cut free, a straight cut across the block. Though making sure the base remains flat is essential otherwise the horse will not stand upright or will stand at a funny angle.

Once the Netsuke is released from the block it can make it more tricky to hold so you tend to work a bit slower and more carefully so that you don’t end up carving your hands as well as the wood.

It took me a little while to finally decide where the legs would be exactly and you can see in the photo the pencil lines on the legs to aid me in this. Yet again I regretted not making a three dimensional maquette.

I did get it sorted eventually after lots of thinking. I feel that its better to spend lots of time thinking before you try something on the final Netsuke as you can quite easily ruin something this small!

The legs are well on their way to becoming four separate entities instead of one large block. As you can see in the next photo they are still all attached at one point or the other.

I have also started to define the face. My aim with the head is to keep the ears within the forelock and mane as a protection for the tips as they could very easily stick out and then would stand a chance of breaking off or snagging on fabric.

It is starting to look like the amount of wood left in the height of the mane will be too much, this is something that can be left for the moment until more of the horse is locked in. Its better to wait and see as its easier to carve wood away than it is to add it on afterwards!


Even more defining of the legs and face of the Horse Netsuke
More refinements of the Horse Netsuke.


One decision I have made is that the tail will stay connected to the hind legs, I’m not quite sure how just yet as I think there is a little too much tail there at the moment. I’m sure it will sort itself out in the end, I’m not worrying for the moment.

From here on in its a case of refining everything and making sure to keep an eye on the overall shape and look of the horse. No matter how good the detail is it has to look like a horse to begin with! Oh and I have to decide how the mane will look, at the moment I have no idea how it will turn out.


I’m going to leave it there for now, I’d love to know what you think of the progression of the Horse Netsuke, let me know in the comments.






Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


Horse Netsuke – a beginning

Horse shape drawn onto pear wood piece
Horse Netsuke shape drawn onto pear wood piece


Horses are one of my favourite things so it was inevitable that at some point I would carve a Horse Netsuke.


Before I even started to draw up designs I did a lot of research looking at both real horses, pictures of horses and Horse Netsuke that are already in existence, trying to work out why they had been designed how they had been designed. They seem to be either laying down or standing with all four hooves tightly together, often with the head down grazing or curved round across the body. I wanted to make something a little different.

I went through lots and lots of possible designs, it took a little practice to get the look that I wanted in proportion in the size that I wanted to work within. In fact I now have about 10 that I would be happy to carve up so if this one works out who knows how many more there may be!

For some reason I cannot remember now I decided just to draw my design onto the piece of pear wood I had picked out and get on with the carving rather than make up a maquette as I have done for both previous Netsuke.  This decision has provided me with some headaches along the way and I may never choose to work this way again!


Once the design was drawn on the first thing I did was to work the outside shape down to the topline of the horse, i.e. the head/neck and back, and the raised front leg.

Working on the shape of the Horse Netsuke
Working on the shape of the Horse Netsuke

As you can see from the photograph as soon as you start to work within the drawn on lines you immediately lose them, the trick here is to keep on drawing them back in so that you have some guidance. This is where a maquette comes into its own as you have a three dimensional drawing to work from.

Once I had the topline more or less in place it was time to start working on the legs.

Redrawing and defining the legs of the Horse Netsuke
Redrawing and defining the legs of the Horse Netsuke

It was when I started to place the legs in that I realised that the raised leg would have very little support with the hoof dangling in midair. The whole point of a Netsuke is that it is a useable object that has no projecting parts that can either snag on fine cloth or break off. Had I have made a maquette I would have figured this little problem out a lot sooner!

I had a good think about it and decided that the best course of action was to drop the raised leg down a little and rest the hoof onto the hind leg behind it and let it rest it against the other front leg next to it. Luckily I had enough wood left in this area to be able to make the changes I wanted to.

Deciding where the tummy will be on the Horse Netsuke
Deciding where the tummy will be on the Horse Netsuke

You can see in the photograph above that the hoof is now resting on the hind leg, when you compare it to the first photograph you can see the difference. At this point the legs were becoming more and more defined so I broke through to the other side of the carving to help better place the legs and decide where the tummy should be.

The next steps include refining the legs more and releasing the Netsuke from the block it is being carved from, I’ll leave discussing that until the next post.

In the meantime I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about this Horse Netsuke so far.






Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


Fabulous Fish Netsuke News

Fish Netsuke 'Fisho' in Walnut, side view


I am really pleased to say that I found out this morning that my Fish Netsuke ‘Fisho’ has been accepted into the upcoming ‘Hilliard Society of Miniaturists Annual International Exhibition’.

So if you are anywhere near Wells in Somerset between Saturday 26th May and Sunday 3rd June 2012 do go and have a look. The Exhibition is being held at the Town Hall, Market Place, Wells, Somerset.

If you are not in the area you can actually view the Exhibition online at the Hilliard Society website from 26th May here (this will open a new window).


I’m now working out whether I can get down there myself to have a look, its not that far is it?





Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .


Fish Netsuke the finished carving

Fisho, Fish Netsuke in Walnut, front view
Fisho, Fish Netsuke in Walnut, front view
Fisho, Fish Netsuke in Walnut, side view
Fisho, Fish Netsuke in Walnut, side view


As you can see from the photos above the Fish Netsuke is completed  and I am really pleased with him, and yes he is a ‘he’ it somehow felt right.

He now has a name, ‘Fisho’, as the shape that his body makes when looking from above is that of an ‘O’. Lots and lots of different names were gone through but that one just seemed to stick once I had thought of it, nothing else worked as well so thats the name he has.

I have taken lots and lots of pictures of him and the two pictures shown above are roughly from the same angles as in the last post so that, hopefully, the progression from one set to the next can be seen.

Although you can’t see it very well in the second image there is an eye in there underneath the tail fin, you have to look pretty close to see it though. The eyes really brought him alive, once the first eye was carved in things seemed to drop into place.

The decision whether or not to leave him smooth or carve in scales was quite a difficult one as I knew that once the scales were started I wouldn’t be able to change my mind, if I didn’t like them I’d have to scrap the carving. Luckily I think that they have really worked, they both look good and give a great texture to the fish.

Just like my Dormouse Netsuke ’40 Winks’, Fisho is less than 4cm in any direction.

As we speak Fisho has arrived at the selection panel for a Miniatures exhibition and I am waiting to hear whether he has got in or not. I do not know when the panel are making their decision so I’m trying really hard not to think about it too much. As soon as I know I’ll let you know.

If you would like to see more images of Fisho you can find them here.

I’ve already started researching my next subject, though I’ll wait a little bit longer to reveal what it will be.




Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .