The inspiration for all of my pieces of art comes from a myriad of sources…
Just driving by and seeing a farmer clearing his field of trees, old-growth and new, beckons me to stop for a chat. More often than not, they will be most happy for me to take whatever I wish, and even help me to load it just to save them the bother of disposing of it. Or perhaps I might see a tree that has come down in a particularly fierce wind. A nuisance for others is a new idea for me. I never cut on a live tree – all of my work is made from wood that would otherwise be left to rot where it sits or cut up for someone’s fire. Discarded driftwood, washed ashore in the violence of powerful waves, has also found new life in my workshop, reimagined as a wild and wonderful candle holder.
Once the wood is home, I will assess it with my moisture meter to determine its next destination. I’ve built a kiln from a discarded American-size refrigerator; I’ve built a drying room linking my old stone cottage and the more recent studio next to it, and I’ve even claimed a good part of our polytunnel, as it is much too large to grow veg just for my wife, Willow, and me. The wood will undergo slow and deliberate drying in the winter months in the polytunnel, and in the darkness of the drying room, as well. A more rapid desiccation occurs in the kiln and in the summertime polytunnel, the latter of which can reach 50 degrees Celsius during those warmer months. Nature has taught me both the wisdom and the beauty of allowing the pieces to dry in their own time. Nature takes me where She wants me to go, and there is no point in fighting Her, as She always wins – and, in a good way. I revisit pieces drying in their respective areas and measure their progress, each becoming more and more informative with the passage of time. What I didn’t see in my last evaluation can suddenly appear to be glaringly obvious in the next. Possibilities arrive in their own singularly spectacular way. Each piece provides unique and individual inspiration, meaning that no two finished pieces will ever be the same. I may create two or even three similar pieces from the same large chunkof wood; however, though they may bear a resemblance to one another, they retain their individuality. I love the idea that my pieces are an exchange of gifts between the tree and me. I am providing it with a repurposed life, an ongoing celebration of its beauty. In kind, the trees are teaching me the worthiness of looking beneath the surface, to all the mysteries contained within and to regard them in the fullness of their majesty.
THE MARRIAGE OF WOOD AND METAL
As my wooden pieces are in process as they dry, even after they are “finished” to my standard, they will sometimes surprise me with further evolution of their own design. I always bring my pieces into our home before I advertise them for sale or take them to market. If there is going to be further transformation within the wood, it will make itself apparent in the warmth of our home over a period of several months. This has led to a completely new direction for a select few of my wood pieces: the marriage of their organic wildness with the unyielding resistance of metal. I’ve discovered that the addition of metal will both highlight the wood’s metamorphosis while also working to keep it in check from further movement. I love the richness of copper with wood, and my experiments have revealed many surprising and playful ways of introducing them to one another, complimenting each other with their own unique properties. Some pieces continue to evolve even past what I might anticipate and, when they do, I am offered the opportunity to practice the Japanese art of Kintsugi, filling the cracks and breaks in the wood with hand-coloured epoxy. If the break is a clean one, I will use hand-twisted copper wire to create a simulated rope, drilling it into both sides of the split to create the illusion of stitching, a delightfully decorative method of checking further separation.
As I have been drawn into using metal to compliment the wood that I love to work with, I have also come to appreciate the individual properties of all types of metal. I love taking discarded appliances that no longer serve their original purpose and re-imagining them into pieces of art. I would never have suspected that the aluminum backing of microwave ovens could yield its shape to become a graceful candle holder when it is gently tapped and coaxed into a rejuvenated life. As I taught myself to weld, the unexpected art of flame painting made itself evident under my torch, opening up yet another avenue of metallurgic expression to me.
I may have come to realise my passion for wood and metal later in life, but the way I see it,
it is never too late to become what you might have been.