Horse Netsuke – is finished and I have fabulous news

Finished Horse Netsuke in pear wood
Finished Horse Netsuke in pear wood

I am really pleased to say that not only is the Horse Netsuke now finished, but she, yes she, has a name. She is called ‘Trouble’, I have no idea where that name came from but as soon as the thought arrived it seemed right and so has stuck.

Getting this Netsuke finished was a lot more stressful than I hoped it would be, not because of the piece itself but rather external circumstances that had nothing to do with it. Also I had a deadline to work to which I have been working towards for a few months now, more on that later.

The main thing that needed to be done following on from where I left off in the last Horse Netsuke post was the sanding and finishing as all the shapes and places of things were locked in already. The mane and tail needed a little work too just to finish them off.

Working on such a small scale the finish (the look of the surface) is incredibly important, each piece gets minutely scrutanised by the people who look at it and the person who, hopefully, buys it. That person will spend a long, long time looking at it and admiring it.

I always forget how long the sanding takes as there are not only quite a few grades of sandpaper to work through to get a lovely sheen, but also technical difficulties in getting the sandpaper into the places you need it to go!

Actually I find it a very calming thing to do, it is so nice to handle the piece as it gets smoother and smoother.

Once I am happy with it one of the last things to do is to apply some Danish oil, to give it a protective coating but also to bring out all the sheen you have been working towards with the sanding.

It wasn’t until I was taking some final photos of the horse that I realised I had forgotten to sign it! That was soon rectified as you can see.

Horse Netsuke offside showing my signature
Horse Netsuke offside showing my signature

My signature has changed a little since I started carving Netsuke, at first I tried to include curves but I soon realised that it was too difficult so I’ve now got a trimmed down all straight line version.

And the fabulous news? If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I was in London at the National Gallery the other Sunday. The National Gallery wasn’t the reason for my trip, it was an added bonus, I was there to submit the Horse Netsuke for possible selection for the Royal Society of Miniatures Annual Exhibition. That was also the deadline I was working towards.

I didn’t find out until last Friday but I am so pleased to say that she has been accepted for the exhibition (yes there was dancing and much happiness when I found out the news!).

The exhibition is being held at The Mall Galleries, The Mall, London and believe it or not it opens tomorrow 16th October (2pm – 8pm), I know its short notice! The official opening is at 3pm on 17th and it carries on until 28th October 2012 10am – 5pm each day though on the last day it closes at 1pm.

I must say that I am really pleased with this Netsuke and I have learned a lot through making her, actually it was quite hard to leave her at the selection committee when she was so newly finished. I hope she enjoys her time being admired at the exhibition.

If you’re in London and like miniature work go have a look, if you do have a look let me know what you think.







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 – How Big? or rather how small?

Horse Netsuke with a fifty pence piece to show its size
Horse Netsuke with a fifty pence piece to show its size

I’ve just realised that in my posts on the Horse Netsuke up till now I haven’t even mentioned its size. From the photographs I have shown it could in all honesty be any size whatsoever as there are no external size references.

It was someone asking me how big it was having seen a photograph that prompted me to take the image shown here to show the size. I have since measured it as well and it measures approx 62mm high x 37mm across x 12mm deep.

When you compare this image to the last one of the Horse Netsuke in the post before the changes in the Netsuke are starting to become more subtle.

The mane and forelock are much closer to the head and neck and more deeply carved, I think they are starting to flow a little more. The ears are now properly in place and carved in, they are still in line with the mane at the tips (though it doesn’t look like that in this image). I hope that this will give the tips the protection they need.

I have taken the muscles around the face a bit deeper and the nostrils are better carved and stand out more along with the mouth.

The body and legs are looking a lot smoother as I have started to sand them to get them ready for the final finish. Sanding is good thinking time, when I’m not quite sure how to proceed with something I can spend a bit of time sanding.

You would think that I would only need to carve the Netsuke and leave it at that, but there is an awful lot of sanding that happens after the carving has finished working through the grades of paper to make it beautifully smooth.

You may be wondering why I have posted so many posts about this Horse Netsuke one after the other, I haven’t worked on it this quickly (it has taken several months to make it). Rather there is something coming up soon and in order to be able to tell you about that I have to show you the finished Horse Netsuke.

I think its nicer to see the progress of the Netsuke rather than just the finished article, especially as I remembered to take photos all the way through! Subscribers to my newsletter will be hearing the news and seeing the finished Horse Netsuke first…….







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 – progress report

The mane is starting to appear on the horse Netsuke
The mane is starting to appear on the horse Netsuke

In the last post on the Horse Netsuke I had more or less finalised the overall shape of the horse and decided finally where the legs would end up. They are still attached to each other at some point so as to give them a little more strength. The surface of the horse was left quite rough, smooth enough so that I could see the shape but not smooth enough to be a final finish. I also had not quite decided whether the tail would stay attached to the back legs.

From there I smoothed off the body and worked to refine the legs, putting in the height of the hooves and the final placing of the fetlocks and other joints.

The face was next, deciding where to put the cheek and the jawline, pulling it away from the body more and starting to see where I think the eyes and nostrils would go. Its all still quite roughly set in at the moment leaving room for me to change my mind a little should I want to, that is happening a lot with this Netsuke.

By working the mane and forelock more I could see where the ears would go, so I put those in roughly before I removed too much of the wood. I made the decision to keep the mane in quite large tumbling blocks for now, that way I would have room to make alterations further down the line if I wanted to. I still want to keep the ears within the height of the mane/forelock to protect them.

Up until this time I had left the bottom of the tail attached to the hooves of the hind legs as I couldn’t decide what to do with it. When you look at most rearing horse sculptures there is only usually the hind feet on the ground and the tail is set out backwards from the body in order to balance the sculpture as it stands creating a stable tripod effect. I was also trying to work out how a tail would fall naturally if a real horse were to be in this pose.

It is quite difficult to figure out what you can remove from the base of a Netsuke so that it looks right but still stands, one thing a Netsuke must be able to do is stand upright by itself on a flat surface. If you take too much away it won’t stand by itself any more. I tried balancing the Netsuke on its three hooves on a smaller surface to test whether it would take removing the tail from touching the floor.

To my surprise it worked, I realised then that I could carved the tail away from the hooves without affecting the balance. The only thing I’d need to watch is that I didn’t leave a ‘pointy’ bit at the bottom of the tail, something that could snag on fabric or break off. So I started by just separating it from the hooves and leaving it at that, by moving onto working on another part of the piece I gave myself time to think about it. Its a technique that I use quite a lot.

The detail being put onto the head of the Horse Netsuke
More detail appearing on the head of the Horse Netsuke

I eventually decided where the eyes and nostrils and mouth should go and put them in, as you can see in the photo above. I am quite pleased with the eyes and put a little of the basic musculature around them. The horse is starting to come alive a lot more.

I carved a little more into the mane, working out where the topline of the neck would sit under all that hair, but am leaving the ears alone for now while I think about what to do.

From here I need to make a decision about the tail, how close or far it should sit from the hooves and how much should be left between the hind legs. Its a case of what looks right against what gives enough support. The mane, forelock and ears need more work as I think there is too much height in there. I may also play a little more with the head. Then I start work on the final finishing, sanding, of the whole piece.

I think its progressing well so far, what do you think?






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 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’ .