Mary May


The following biographical information was written by Chris Schwarz and posted on his wonderful blog here.



"Perhaps the best way to describe Mary May, author of “Carving the Acanthus Leaf,” is to describe another woman – Grace. Grace began as an 8” x 10” x 21” block of mahogany, and emerged not with plan or intent, but with patience, skill and curiosity.

On her blog, Mary wrote about the process of carving Grace without referring to a model – a process called “direct” carving. “A woman was in there somewhere,” Mary wrote. “I just needed to begin chipping the wood away and find out where and who she was.”

And so it is with Mary herself. A carver was inside her, always – that’s evident in her childhood stories of three-dimensional play and carved zucchini dolls. But just as Mary handled Grace, she has worked her way through life not with a grinder, but rather slowly, with a mallet and chisel. “Without having a specific design, how do you know what is ‘waste’ wood, anyway?” she writes when talking about carving Grace. “This process of slowly chipping away helped me to discover the design as I carved.”

And so it is with Mary’s life. Her life experiences have allowed herself to live three-dimensionally. In fact, her work these days is split in thirds – carving, teaching and creating online videos. And what has emerged is a well-respected career that has allowed her to fill her days doing exactly what she loves."

Here's a nice extended bio of Mary from Chris Schwarz' Lost Art Press blog (highly recommended!)

Please email William Brown re. availability and to reserve your spot:

We will forward payment info.


  A student's perspective:

"I had the privilege of taking a weekend carving class with Mary in my local Woodcraft in Upstate South Carolina several years ago. Rarely do you find an instructor so instantly likable, and whom you would immediately like to know better apart from the course of study. Besides her kind demeanor, one cannot help but be intrigued by the hints of her own story she reveals in the course of instruction – things like studying in Greece, living in Charleston, etc. I’m not surprised to hear of her parents’ unusual paths. The description of her dad makes me think of “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” and her career so far seems to me to exemplify the Aristotelian idea of “eudaemonia” – excellence or human flourishing as manifested through fulfillment of one’s gifts/calling.

Carving doesn’t yet find a high enough place in my priorities (in competition with family and professional priorities) for me to have progressed, yet that class is a fabulous memory. I still show off my only carved “ball and claw” foot whenever a guest asks to see my little garage shop. I wish I had the time to study with her often."

      --Matthew Hindman, 2018


The following list of tools have been used in Mary's past classes.  It's a good general starter set.

Your  specific class may not require all of these.


Full-length (9" to 10" long) gouges are recommended.

Fishtail shaped gouges are preferred where available, but straight shaped gouges work also.


6mm v-chisel (60 degree angle)

#3, 6mm

#3, 14mm

#5, 14mm 

#7, 6mm

#7, 14mm

#11, 3mm


To keep things simple, sells The Mary May Beginner Set with the #11, 3mm purchased separately

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William also has tool sets from Schaaf Tools available for student use if needed.

Also bring:

Drawing paper: 8 1/2 x 11 typing paper can work


Straight edge

Pencil and eraser