Charley McCarthy

Wood Turner

Before meeting Charley McCarthy, I had never come across anyone who was so passionate about wood. He enthusiastically spoke about the different types of wood - yew, sycamore, lime - some of which come from friends’ backyard timbers.

Knowing that he is a self-taught craftsman makes me admire his passion even more.

His interest in woodworking was sparked when he was vacationing in Venice. He had come across a store front that made him do a double take. The shop in question sold everyday items sculpted out of wood, yet they looked so life-like that it left him with a lasting impression and a deep determination to learn wood carving.

And this drive has brought him around the world, where he has learned from a master wood carver in Crete and even with 3 wood crafsmen in Hoi An, Vietnam.

While visiting his home studio in Fermoy, Charley gets excited as he tells me the origins of two of his more personal art pieces.

Right in the middle of our conversation, Charley insists that we pop into his son’s house next door. He wants to show me a hanging jacket, which he carved out of wood and gifted to his son as a wedding present. It hangs in the middle of their dining area, and is so realistic yet understated that I almost miss it. His carving brings a softness to solid wood that I wouldn’t have imagined possible.

Two umbrellas hang in the hallway of Charley’s home. One is functional, and the other is there for purely sentimental reasons. The wooden umbrella handle is upcycled from an old armchair that belonged to his late mother-in-law. He had picked it up after her passing and his wife treasures this ornamental umbrella.

Charley’s approach to his craft is not a financial one. He is less interested in creating another bowl or plate. To him, getting to work with his hands is what keeps him at it.

I'm good at starting, but not great at finishing projects,” he says, almost apologetically. He points to a wooden handbag in the corner of the room. “That has been in-progress for years.”

And what's next for Charley and his art? “My wife and I plan to escape the Irish winter to Spain,” he reaches for a pile of wood blocks on his studio floor. “Maybe I'll bring some of these and practise carving spoons.

Charley McCarthy
Visited October 2018, published February 2019.