I have carved inspirations from nature for nearly four decades. Carving has been the continuum that has driven my sculptural exploration from the use of stoneware to porcelain clay, and then on to fine-grained and dense hardwoods, mammoth tusk, amber and antler. The subjects in the compositions are small in life and have inspired me to work in a similar, small scale to create sculptures, netsuke, and wearable sculptural pieces as pendants, pins or brooches.
While making pottery for a living in my earliest adult years, time was taken to draw, then to draw and carve on stoneware and then on porcelain clay pots and tiles. These stimulating exercises became the earliest works of my second major period of artistic exploration: carving images from the surface of porcelain vessels while the clay was damp, to be fired with a celadon glaze that enhanced the shallow relief carving. As compositions evolved from shallow relief concepts to more three-dimensional subjects, a branching off of carving techniques emerged into very small porcelain sculptures. In 1995, wanting more from the carving material, I chose a piece of boxwood and carved the first, small, wood sculpture. Since then, I have worked mostly in wood, while exploring other materials occasionally. In recent years I have begun to explore carving small sculptural pieces as wearable objects.
Currently I am working on complex, larger sculptural pieces, interspersed with some that are netsuke-sized. I enjoy having long-term relationships with pieces, as details emerge from the wood, and the sculptural processes reveal the hidden stories. When I am carving complex pieces, the work continues until it is finished, without cutting corners or overlooking details, and the piece is done when every detail, overlap and surface is as each should be by my judgment.
A long ago promise made to myself, to learn and to grow with each piece, endures as ideas and projects unfold.
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. ~ Goethe
Each time that I resume carving I am reminded of how much I enjoy what I do for my life’s work. Carving is the continuum that has driven my small-sculptural explorations since the mid 1970’s. I first carved stoneware and then porcelain clays until 1995, when I began to carve wood. The subjects are often small in life and inspire me to work in a similar, small scale.
Boxwood is a very hard and dense, light colored wood that is well suited to fine detail work. It is my favored choice for carving. I use other dense and close-grained hard woods, amber, tusk and antler, each offering interesting color and textural variations.
Tools are very essential partners on my carving journey. With them I can change flat surfaces into dimensional imagery, carving to bring the light and shadow of the form and detail to a point where the piece begins to sing visually. There are intrinsic challenges to carving on such a small scale. Tools that suit my needs are not found commercially so I make the tools that I use. Carving small requires magnification for careful tool placement while carving the fine, sculptural details.
With an interest in illustrating what has intrigued me in nature I begin by envisioning a scenario within an intimate habitat. I look to what is characteristic of each subject and of the particular wood to be carved to create the composition. I work carefully and intentionally with hand tools, rather than with less controllable power tools, to render form and detail as the composition develops. Each shape, to the smallest element, is deliberately formed and judged against its neighbors for its contribution to light and shadow, textural balance or contrast, directionality and weight; these being a few among many considerations. I sometimes think of the complexity of intertwining musical notes that create a mood or a feeling being analogous to the interconnected, visual components of the complex and detailed small sculptures.
Do my pieces have a function beyond being viewed? One becomes more familiar with the small sculptures when handling them. To feel the shape and texture, while sensing the weight and warmth of the wood is, in a way, seeing the piece with one’s fingers. I have watched as people have discovered a quiet place within themselves while holding a finished sculpture. To aid in a moment of such remembrance of beauty in nature, is a sublime gift to pass on to another.