Woodworking is a trade that might not have a big place in our modern lives. Artwork like this has to be done by hand, slowly and over hundreds of hours. So nowadays, it doesn’t make much sense to have a winged dragon topping your staircase or a nature relief carved into your front door.
Meet Mori Kono, the Japanese woodworker who’s striving to bring all of this back. Kono now lives in Canada, where he and his team produce beautiful wooden sculptures and reliefs from native trees like cherry, fir, walnut, and more.
Kono works largely with power tools, but he and his team do the detail work, such as fur, scales, and eyes, with a hand chisel and other tools. The result is absolutely breathtaking.
“Our main mission is to bring out, or back, the wondrousness of nature to this busy modern world,” reads Kono’s website for his business, MK Carving and Sculpting. “All living things in this world exist and accept every rule of mother nature…living in balance. If our completed works of art are able to contribute to society – to have a deeper feeling and respect towards nature and the wild more often, then that is our greatest dream!”
1. A couple of raccoons in a tight spot
This mother and baby carving is made from yellow cedar and features an adorable raccoon in an unlucky position.
2. A marmot striking a dignified pose
Marmots might not be common in your part of the world, but you don’t have to be familiar with an animal to appreciate the skill and complexity that went into carving its likeness!
The artist perfectly captures not just the mother eagle’s majestic beauty but also the babies, who haven’t quite grown into their feathers just yet. The sculpture was made to top a spiral staircase, which must be an amazing sight to see!
4. A raccoon helps out a chipmunk
The artist seems to enjoy sculptures of animals — often ones of two different species — helping one another out of tight spots. Here, a raccoon offers a chipmunk an acorn. This sculpture was also made to be mounted on top of a spiral staircase.
5. A chipmunk made to peek down from the top of the stairs
This adorably lifelike chipmunk is carved from fir wood. He’s peeking down over the edge of a staircase. Can you imagine walking up the stairs to see that little face looking at you?
6. A Russian Blue cat climbing on a pole
The artist doesn’t only capture this cat super realistically — he even gets all the features of the specific breed, including the dignified, heavy features that are typical of Russian Blues.
7. A mother bear made from yellow cedar
They say you should never get between a mother bear and her cub, but I’m not sure I could resist getting up close to this lifelike sculpture, made to adorn a mantelpiece.
8. An Amazonian piranha made of maple
This piranha might be made from curly maple, but its whole form is representative of the rainforest. The artist has perfectly captured that sinister piranha look around the eyes and the protruding jaw.
9. A playful octopus made of black walnut
This delightful octopus was still in progress when the artist shared this picture. When he was finished, the sculpture was colored, stained, and varnished to make it complete.
10. A bear cub crawls out of a tree trunk
It’s amazing to see the progress of this work, especially how the artist plays with negative space to achieve the realistic appearance of the bear cub and the tree.
11. Rabbits cuddle together side by side
These sweet rabbits are cuddling up together. They seem to be watching the world through their dark, lifelike eyes. The artist made them for a customer who lives in Russia.
12. Chipmunks clamber up a tree
Here again, we get to see the artistic process of sketching the sculptures, bringing them to life, and finally finishing them with colors and varnishes. So much work goes into each masterpiece, even the tiny ones!
13. Beavers dance on a bowl of silver maple
These tiny beavers just go to show the level of detail and intricacy the artist is able to achieve. The bowl is 7-by-7 inches, which puts the size of the animal sculptures in perspective.
14. An orca made of curly maple seems to leap through the waves
One of the biggest challenges for artists is to capture not only forms, but also movement. This orca is a perfect example, seemingly cresting a wave even though it’s made from solid wood.
15. A bear relief carved into a door
This door shows the difference between the artist’s sculptures and his reliefs. The level of detail is extraordinary, with everything from the bear’s fur to the splashing water captured in — pun intended — sharp relief. Can you imagine having this door at your home?
16. An African spurred tortoise carved from cherry wood
The detail of the tortoise’s face, down to the expression in its eyes, is so realistic. Meanwhile, its shell is so shiny and beautifully smooth — it’s tempting to think about reaching out and touching it.
17. A king salmon carved from yellow cedar
It must have taken many hours of work to achieve such a beautifully smooth look to this king salmon. The artist also captured the details in its face to a stunning degree.
18. A majestic eagle with a 5-foot wingspan
This eagle isn’t just incredibly realistic — but it’s also almost life-sized. It has a 5-foot wingspan, making it appear to “fly” above the heads of onlookers. This sculpture gives people somewhat of an idea what it would be like to be so close to this majestic bird.
19. A patriotic walrus shows his colors
This sculpture isn’t just super realistic — it’s also kind of adorable. This walrus is out to celebrate Canada Day with a red maple waving. Did we mention that the artist is Canadian?
20. A wolf of cherry wood watches his prey
This beautiful wolf, carved from cherry wood, is amazing to look at closely. But it’s also a reminder that you wouldn’t want to get near the real wild animal that inspired it.
21. An enormous buffalo of red cedar
If you think this buffalo is majestic, you’re right: its measurements are 40 inches by 6 feet by 5 feet. That’s a pretty huge sculpture. But what’s amazing is all the level of intricate detail on the enormous piece.
22. A happy beaver made of western red cedar
One of the really amazing things the artist manages to do is convey emotion, not just in figures made of wood, but also in animal subjects. This happy beaver is part of a stair railing post.
23. An owl relief peeks out of a stair railing
This owl carving is also made to go on a stair railing. It must be amazing to have such beautiful sculptures in your home and see them every day!
24. A slightly more mythical creature
Not all of these sculptures are real creatures. This dragon might be something completely different, but it’s still made with the same craft and level of attention to detail.
25. A bear lounges in a hollow
This little bear looks so happy as he lounges in his tree hollow. And it’s no wonder — it was carved just for him!
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