I enjoy nothing more than making something-
anything- doesn't matter if it is a carving, or a box, or a
neat garden plot. Life without making things would be
a dull life indeed. I have been fortunate to have had
opportunities to make many things, and many of them
are here on this web site. Through the years my
experiences have built one upon another to make it
possible to make just about anything I want to make-
and that is my happiness.
|AN ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT: DONNA MENKE
I studied to become a nurse for over a year, and my
favorite course was anatomy and physiology. The
most fun at this period was illustrating my
microbiology notes. Then, my artistic urges moved
me to study art at the University of Massachusetts.
Guess I was a little flighty because I left there to join
the Peace Corps where I spent 6 weeks in training
before moving on to other things.
I met and married my husband in 1967 and took courses in
woodworking, drafting, technical illustration, mechanical
engineering, scientific illustration, pottery, painting, and stained
glass. During this time I also bore two children who have grown
to become wonderful people, and my friends. We lived in
Europe for a few years where I got to visit many of the great art
museums. When we settled here in Texas we bought a fifty
acre ranch where we designed and built our dream house.
After 30 years of studying and taking lots of courses, including photography and metal working, I finally graduated from the University of
Texas at Austin with a BFA in Studio Art and a BA in Art History, with honors; Phi Beta Kappa. I was 47 at the time. Slow, I am slow, but
In 1995 I started to learn how to carve wood. In 1997 I started to teach simple carving projects at the same time as I was taking more carving
classes from other instructors. Thinking in three dimensions was new and interesting to me, and wood was such a wonderful medium that I
was hooked forever.
Working at the Austin Woodcraft store was a turning point in my life. At the store I was immersed in a woodworking environment that was
intriguing, challenging, and exciting. I learned a lot and was introduced to many different woodworking skills and techniques. Eventually I
taught classes in woodworking at the store and enjoyed that a lot.
I started writing for Carving magazine in 2003, and with the help of the editor I learned how to create
an interesting and informative how-to article complete with illustrations and photographs. That is
when my varied education became valuable. I have done 18 articles for various magazines.
It occurred to me that I would be able to write a whole book and so the idea for the Ultimate Band
Saw Box Book began to take shape. It was a lot of hard work and a whole lot of time, but in 2007 my
book was published and eventually 16,000+ copies were sold. What a heady experience that has
been! In promoting the book and teaching carving classes I have been thrilled to have been invited to
teach all over the country, as well as for three exciting carving cruises.
I have produced some how-to videos entirely in-house with a small video camera, a tri-pod, and a
computer. It has all been fun and exciting for me and a way to communicate with people all over the
world who would not otherwise have access to this information.
Teaching other people how to carve and paint their carvings has been almost as much fun as carving
and painting my own projects. Designing new projects for my students has been stimulating for my
development as an artist in wood. There will always be more projects to work on- and more fun in all
the planning and execution of new work.
My latest carving project was the ball-jointed doll tutorial booklet. It is the most difficult project I can
imagine- but it too was fun to design, make, and show others how to do it too.
I've always wanted to be an artist- doesn't
everyone? I studied pencil drawing and pen
and ink work on my own from the age of 12. In
high school I 'majored' in art, even though
there was no such thing. It was the only
course of study I found interesting. English
was ok too.
Some of my hardest, and most satisfying, projects have been designing and constructing harps, and learning how to play
them. I am a better harp maker than I am a harp player, but I keep trying.
When not working with wood and teaching I enjoy growing veggies in our large garden, stalking butterflies to take their
pictures, practicing my harp playing, and reading.
My parents and grandparents
were not artists, but they did
enjoy making things, be it in
wood or fibers. I learned
patience and how to do a job
well- or not at all.
When Sterling Publishing allowed the book to go out of print I had the rights reverted to myself and I
digitally copied it and offered downloads to those who had not bought the first publishing.
Lo and behold, a couple of years later Echo Point Publishing asked for rights ro make a reprint of
the book. They have done a great job of reproducing the book- and I even like the new cover better
than the original. It is still selling well!!!
Today I am working with polymer clay as my
medium of choice. It is not as easy as I thought it
was going to be. The professional level is much
different from kids'-level play. Oh, it is still fun, but
to do it right takes a lot of effort and time.
I love the malleability of the clay, and the bright
Unlike with wood- I can easily add to the project
as I go along. That is nice.
I am having fun, and it is a thrill to sell the things I
make- just as I have for 20 years with things
made out of wood.