Mark Delavan: Craftsman and Opera Singer
Quite frequently, when folks find out I carve knives as a hobby, the first question they ask is how I got started.
Being who I am, I’m going to give you the long version. Almost ten years ago, I was talking to a dear friend of mine, Larry Gatlin, of the famed Gatlin Brothers Band. I was complaining about something or other, as I was apt to do, and he suggested, rather strongly, that I take a course called “The Artist’s Way”, by Julia Cameron. It involved reading and exercises all meant to remove Artist’s Blocks.
If anyone reading this should decide to take this course, be prepared for anything. I did not have bells and whistles go off, nor did I see bright lights, but the fire to create was reignited.
Fast forward a couple of years (and two more kids), to when I was engaged in a production of Puccini’s “IL TRITTICO” to sing the roles of “Michele” in IL TABARRO, and the title role of GIANNI SCHICCHI. As I began my research on the role of Michele, I noticed at the beginning of the opera how many times his wife, Giorgetta, would chastise him about his pipe. Fans of the opera, know that Michele’s pipe, becomes the object of a tragic chain of events. (If I’ve peaked your curiosity to see the opera then I’ve succeeded in my goal; it’s one of my favorites). Giorgetta insenuates that Michele loves the pipe more than he loves her. This is all because of the loss of their child at least a year before. The poor couple are caught in bad coping mechanisms: she turns out, he turns in. As I mused on this, I decided he wouldn’t just sit and smoke his pipe, he would turn that pipe into a thing of beauty like his lost child. Therefore, I asked permission of the opera company to carve on the pipe prop that had been given to me. I remember it was a burl.
They reluctantly agreed.
Next thing I know, the pipe was lost! Frankly, I’m betting I accidentally left it somewhere and it was thrown away. It seemed awful at the time; I was almost finished carving it! However, the cool thing was that I had to start over. This time, I wasn’t going to let the pipe out of my sight. I remember that during the production I would be under the stage during a performance, with a piece of sandpaper working on that piece.
The beautiful stage management staff of that fine institution gave me that pipe as a gift of the production.
I remember going home after that, storing my pipe carefully away, then stopping in my living room and thinking, “Now what?”
I began looking around and found a rather strange “kit” of sorts, called “Make the Knife you Carry”. It contained a beautiful 9” dagger blade, a hilt (that’s the metal cross piece at the top of the handle and the bottom of the blade designed to protect your fingers when you grip the knife), a buttcap (that’s the metal piece at the bottom of a knife that connects to the bottom of the hidden part of the blade, called the tang, and holds it in place), and a huge piece of burl, just waiting to be carved.
Well, I was in business. I have to tell you the worst cut I ever got was working on that knife. I can honestly say I put my own sweat and blood into that knife.
Needless to say, I went on making knives. Somewhere along the line, I bought a second-hand set of leather tools and got involved with leather tooling of the knife sheaths; that’s the thing made out of leather that one puts the knife in to be able to carry it or wear it on your belt. Next came engraving.
There is an old adage that says, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” This was the case for engraving.
I called an engraver in my town. I described the situation and her words were, “I know the exact person who you need to talk to”, and led me to the owner of the Chronite company who gave me an instructional course? on how this was to be done. And the rest is history.
I’ve since carved numerous pieces. This website shows you some of them. Hope you enjoy!
To learn more about Mark you can visit his opera site, www.markdelavan.com