Inspired by Kathleen Ryan's article "Teaching Kids to Carve" Woodcarving Illustrated Fall 2008 Issue 44 about how Jim Calder is teaching these kids using sweet potato or Yam as the basis of carving, I went ahead and bought 3 lbs of it.
I also got myself a knife, a small Swiss army knife model CANYON. It differs from what most other people using, which is TINKER, in that mine features a drop point small blade. This turns out to be a mistake on my part as I learn the hard way that in order to make intersecting cut, I had to learn to rotate the knife JUST SO, in order to make a clean cut. Yams turn out to be an excellent media for learning. I have to admit being impatient and forced it a little bit. That would have disastrous consequence had it been wood. Basswood or Linden is a good choice. Soft enough to carve, hard enough to hold detail.
My first try was a cage turned into a box, turned into a top, turned into an egg. It was pretty small considering the original size of the potato!
For a second try, I tried carving a face using Jim Calder "Calder's Triangle Method" (p. 42-43), but alas my head doesn't look at all like his! For some reason it reminds me of Bruce Campbell, that B movie actor.
For the third attempt, I decided to do something easy. Something that is appropriate for beginners. Turtles are easy. There's an instruction about how to do it with soap. Perfect! Except that the potato is kind of strange shaped. So I whittle it some with my big knife.
Hmmm. That can make a pedestal if I square it. Okay. Chop chop. You know, I bet I can make a hat at the other end. Darn knot! Almost had it! May as well put a face under the hat. How about a mustache? Ears would be good, too. Where to put hands? In front, with fingers!
At the end there, the turtle is all but forgotten. Ah, well. Better luck next time!