On the BenchMasksStoneMetalContact

On the Bench

Come by often to see the progress on the work currently on my workbench.

Working on a commission piece...well, several of them. Fish! ...carved out of some kind of wood I found in the swamps of Florida. These have glass eyes, and are yet to be polychromed. (the full sculpture and a detail of each are shown below)

And this one, finished and painted, is a school:

I'm having a good time making a bowl! Here is what the progression looks like:

I've been busy in the studio, carving, anealing, bending, braking, and sanding, painting, and gluing. This is some of my latest work...

A Present for Owen

Many thanks to Mimi Velek for making the glass eyes on the pony.

A Man's Wealth

Its always interesting to see a piece in its various stages of development. This is a series on the piece I'm currently focused on, and the third piece of the Copper Series. The piece starts with three red cedar planks, each 2 inches thick. The long edges are then dressed and all three are joined to create a panel that is 2 inches thick and 37" by 47". Now I'm ready to make some serious wood chips.

Below, you can see the full panel and then in the next two photos, you see how the thickness is removed to outline the figure. The background of the panel is now approximately 1" thick. That leaves some serious chips on the floor of the studio, but they will get used in the next couple of months as fire starter material for the studio fireplace. Hmmm... does that make me a green studio? Maybe I can get a government certification and use the credits for new wood. Ok seriously, in this shot you can see a bit of the torso shape and the face is beginning to emerge.

Now we have an ear. This guy is going to be able to hear better than me, but that's not saying much. With the mouth and nose outlined, we can finish that other ear and then the mouth and eyes. The concept for this piece was a portion of a photo of a decaying island house north of Vancouver. Part of a village of 30 or so houses a similar figure was apparently originally carved in in very shallow relief, using mostly paint to create the image. For the Copper Series, "A Man's Wealth" will show the upper torso in bas relief of about 1". The exception will be the arms that will mount to the panel at about a 10 degree angle and be fully 3 dimensional. Thus, the piece will emerge from the abstraction to realism.

Did you count the fingers? You can only see 4 here because the thumb is actually behind them. When complete a copper with a Grizzly Bear Totem will be added to provide the wealth for "A Man's Wealth." The copper will slide between the thumb and fingers of each hand, completing the 3 dimensional portions of the piece. My guess is that the copper will rest almost 4" above the torso's chest. If the arms work out and the copper rests properly, this should be a truely awesome addition to the Copper Series.

New toys! This is going to make carving a lot easier:

Well, you guessed it – the scale just isn’t working. There is enough wood for the left hand but it’s in the wrong place. So as soon as I can wire the studio for the band saw, it will be time to remove the existing wood and then patch on wood for the left hand, and of course the drop in the towel that is being twisted…can you see all this yet?

The new series combines the media of wood and copper to present, “A Return to Wealth.” The entire series is based on the “Coppers” produced for hundreds of years by the Northwestern Tribes of North America. Before we get to the visuals, it will help to understand the traditions behind this series.

Everyone knows about totem poles – well at least they think they do. But the general public may not be aware that most of the traditional carvers of the NW tribes were also skilled metal-smiths and in many cases, accomplished jewelers.

As important in the culture as totem poles were coppers. These shield-like works were shaped, painted and engraved to become what many describe as North America’s first form of money. I suspect that the Native American historians are going to counter with arguments that Wampum in the Northeast might have pre dated coppers, but since we don’t truly know how far coppers go back and what their evolution was, I will stick with coppers as the first form of wealth. If nothing else, the culture seems to have invented inflation as quickly as it invented wealth. Coppers when sold must always be bought at a price higher than the last selling price. In these days of value fluctuation, that sounds like a good idea to me. Coppers found their way into a number of cultural events: as a wedding dowry; as an endowment gift for new births; as a symbol of power and prestige; and on and on. One story tells of a tribe throwing its coppers into the bay as warriors approached by sea, symbolizing clearly their surrender as they cast their coppers, their wealth before the enemy warriors. Another explains that when a family leader felt another was infringing on his power and prestige, he would break off a portion of a copper and give it to the offending individual, knowing full well that the offender could not return a gift as large as the portion of the copper, and so the offender was publicly humiliated by the gift. A nice way to put someone back into their place.

In some cases, when not in the arms of the owner, the copper might be displayed leaning against a chair, a wall, or even mounted on the totem pole at the entrance to the owner’s home. The new series will borrow from this by starting with a carved wooden “copper” wall panel. Then I will add a unique “holder” to the wall panel.

Finally, each piece will have a painted and engraved “Copper” to demonstrate the wealth and position of the owner.I’m very excited about this series.

The first 5 pieces have been designed. The carving on the wall panel and holder for the signature piece, Proudly Held, is complete. The finish work will start next week and I will keep you posted. The holder for the second piece, Well Armed, is complete as well. I’ve also roughed out the wall panel for the third piece, New Beginning. The rough plates for the Copper for Proudly Held and New Beginning have been cut and are ready for initial hammering.

All in all, it’s a busy time. I’ve set the goal of having the first 5 of these pieces ready to show by the end of March, 2011, which will be challenging, given several other command pieces that have to be finished.