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 – 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’ .


A Primitive Trophy brings a shine to my week

PAAS Trophy 2012. English Pear.
PAAS Trophy 2012. English Pear.

This past week has been a little odd for reasons I won’t go into here. One of the best things to come out of the past seven days has been the trophy I made that you can see in the photograph.

You may be looking at it thinking ‘er what is it for’, and I don’t blame you for that as its not really self explanatory unless you know what you’re looking at.


As well as being a wood carver I am an archer and I shoot a primitive bow (little more than a shaped Ash stick and yes I did make it myself with some help) and I belong to a group called the Prehistoric Archery and Atlatl Society or PAAS. You can learn a little more about the group here.


Last year the PAAS held the first ever Primitive Archery Championships and I attended, its where I learned how to throw a 6ft long dart using an Atlatl (but thats another story). Soon after that I joined the group and offered to make a trophy to be given away at this years event.

For ages I couldn’t think what I wanted to make, I was worried about what people would be pleased to receive, what was relevant and what was suitable. Every idea I came up with just seemed wrong in my gut, the day was getting closer and I didn’t have anything made. I ran through countless options but none was right, everything seemed to be too ‘polished’ and not ‘primitive’ enough. My instincts were screaming at me that my thoughts were wrong.

I was getting slightly panicky, I couldn’t even find a suitable piece of wood, something native was requested so as to fit in more with the ethos of the group. Then I walked past this piece of English Pear wood sitting on a work bench that had fallen off of a log when I was using it to split smaller logs for the wood burner last summer. When it happened I decided to keep the interesting looking piece rather than burn it, I knew it would come in handy at some point. I was fascinated by the different colours within the wood as I have only ever seem steamed pear before this, this is air dried pear from my mums friends garden more than 20 years ago (they should be nice and dry by now!).


As soon as I found it I knew it would make a great trophy and that the PAAS logo would look great carved in relief onto it as was with no smoothing of the wood. My instinct had finally kicked in with good feelings. Once the relief was carved I thought that it didn’t stand out enough so I painted it in with acrylic and added some rottenstone over the paint to age it. Painting on Danish Oil darkened the wood beautifully but removed all the rottenstone, the paint looked too bright without it so I re added the rottenstone before the oil dried in the hope that the oil will help it to stay put.

I am really pleased with the result as I think its really quite effective and to me looks like a cave painting (I know its on wood but the spirit of cave painting, though I can’t take any credit for the logo design). I loved making it, and if they tell me that they liked it and the Championships are run again next year I’d love to make another.


Unfortunately, and sadly, for various reasons I can’t get to the championships this year so I’ve posted off the trophy and by the time you read this it should be there (without me which is sad). I don’t know who will win it, obviously, but I hope that they like it and are proud to be its new owner.

If you’re reading this and you’re going to the Championships this weekend have a great time and know that I’m really jealous of you……





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’ .