Re: A "carving" experiment
E it looks like you have done a fair bit of adding to this piece already. Just from the original mock up of bits to where it stands now. I think in order to get away from adding you do need to start with bigger chunks and be ready to remove more material.
I think (in a more direct way) that you would benefit from going big.
I would have started with a 2 foot by 4 inch chunk of plate. Carved it flat then heated it and bent it.