Each piece begins with a trip to the lumber yard. There, I choose wood that is relatively free of knots, cracks, and other imperfections. I cut and mill the wood, getting it ready to be glued into a panel. Each section needs to be smooth and square.
Gluing up the panel takes about a day. I glue each section individually, waiting for the glue to dry completely before securing the next one. Pipe clamps hold each new section in place until the glue is set.
Once the glue-up is completed, I rough out the piece, laying out and shaping the peaks and valleys. First, I use a plunge router to outline the curves, then I round and shape the landscape using a die grinder (a larger and more powerful kind of Dremel tool).
This is the point in the project with the most potential. I’m working closely with the wood, setting the path that the finished piece will take.
My sculptures begin as obsessively worked compositions. I create the drawings almost exclusively in Adobe Illustrator, experimenting with design and color until I hit upon an image that feels finished. Juxtaposition is everywhere: modern and traditional techniques, balance and imbalance, organic and inorganic forms. I have the end result in my mind throughout.
Even as I’m working on the computer, I approach the image as a sculptor. Familiarity with the medium creates a dialog that both informs and shapes the drawing.
I’ll often tweak a design for months before it becomes the basis for a new carving. However, the time and effort that go in to each piece guarantee that I always have a backlog of designs.
From Concept to Sculpture
Once I’ve milled, glued up, and roughed out each piece, I use a digital projector to transfer the design onto the wood. This is ongoing throughout the carving process – I transfer one layer, rough it out, then repeat the process with subsequent layers.
There’s an essentialist quality to making and engaging with the world primarily through the agency of our hands. Working with wood, I’m able to reveal something that was never made before, and yet was revealed out of the existing block of wood. For me it’s created via sawdust and wood chips. Sculpture is simply a tool, a way to “know” both the wood and the resulting image. This is a hands-on wisdom. Doing becomes knowing.
The work evolves as I carve. Some parts get elaborated while others are simplified. On its most basic level, my work is an attempt to bridge my subconscious vision to the material world. I have to allow the constraints and demands of scale, the wood, the tools to have their say.
I love the physical act of pushing a chisel across the wood’s grain, watching the chip curl off. As a medium, wood constantly challenges and channels my understanding of its potential and possibilities. Technical mastery simply allows the easy interaction of thought and action. The influence going both ways.
Wood carving lets me capture lines since every cut, every slice, every mark becomes a line on the surface of what I am making. Each tool has its purpose, its way of cutting, and its own type of line.
The painting is one of my favorite parts. It’s where the piece comes alive, and the design comes full circle. I’ve finally re-achieved the completeness of my original sketch. I’ve spent enough time with the piece to understand it. To have an idea what it’s trying to say. The finished sculpture is at once exactly what I imagined and totally different. It’s the “the self behind the self”, the interpretation of a vision half glimpsed.
This disparity recreates that moment of transcendence you get looking at a sunset, or at the water’s edge. It’s the moment when your conceptions of the world are overwhelmed, when your subconscious can take the front seat. The making and knowing have done their work, now it’s time to just be.