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.
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 steady.
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 a 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. 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.
I've always wanted to be an artist- wouldn'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, recent 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.