While browsing the internet I came across a wonderful folk art wood carving style from Russia called Birch Bark Boxes. These beautifully intricate works are made by layering a very thin veneer of birch bark onto a dark and thicker wood form. The pattern is transferred to the birch layer then the artisan carefully carves out the background of the design to reveal the dark wood below.
The patterns and the final look to the work is very similar to stencil painting. The birch areas are left smooth or may contain a very fine amount of detailing. The background wood is deeply grooved, giving it a texture in contrast to the plain birch bark. Pine and cedar are the common woods used as the background support.
This art form began nearly two thousand years ago and is still a valued craft today. Because of the natural properties of the bark, this wood can be worked in a similar manner to leather. It is easily molded into shapes making it ideal for round and oval boxes and containers.
Common carving themes for Russian Birch Bark are animals, birds, wild flowers, and Russian fairy tales. The silhouette style of pattern is great for the new carver and adaptable to almost any pattern.
Our beginner’s project will be a mock Russian Birch Bark carving. Since few of us have fresh Birch Bark readily available nor wish to indulge in the long process of veneering, we will instead work the carving on one piece of wood then use a staining technique to create the two color look.