I knew the first thing I had to do was to try to remove or tone down the glossy exterior coating on the driftwood. I ended up using paint thinner then denatured alcohol, followed by some gentle elbow grease with 220 grit sandpaper. After removing some areas of "punky" wood, I proceeded to shape and sand various "protuberances" to enhance the seal-like form that I saw in the contours of the driftwood. Finally I gave it a coat of satin polyurethane.
The next step was to create a base and support on which to mount the "seal". This would involve another piece of rescued driftwood, a short section of an old cedar post, and a metal rod. This second piece of nicely grayed driftwood had a wave-like shape that I thought would work well with the direction I was headed in with the piece. After cleaning up some pithy areas and shaping its edges a bit, I fitted and attached a 3 3/4" tall piece of an old cedar post to the underside of the "wave" to elevate it off of the yellow heart board that would act as the base of the sculpture.
The first step in assembling the piece involved drilling a hole in the base to accept the 12" metal rod that would hold up the seal., That was the easy part. Next I had to drill a hole in the seal's chest to receive the other end of the rod. I had to figure
My latest project was the rehabbing and rebirth of a piece of driftwood that I found a number of years ago at a coastal antique/collectible/junk shop. Someone had tapered it, sanded some areas smooth, given it a glossy coat of shellac or polyurethane and some kind of push pin eyes. How it eventually ended up at the shop I don't know, but it called out to be rescued. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but I couldn't leave it behind.
out how I wanted to position the seal over the wave and then determine the angle the hole needed to be drilled in order to achieve that angle. The final step was to epoxy the rod into the base and then the seal onto the rod. The driftwood seal was finally where it was meant to be.
"Deep Sea Diver" ... 3 views
I had identified an area at the bottom of the piece as the only place where I would be able to securely insert a rod to mount the piece to a base. I shaped and smoothed a "path" down the left side past the lower "tendril", continuing around and up along the right side, leaving a "nub of wood at the bottom. After drilling a hole to accommodate a 1/4" rod, I refined the area around the eventual insertion site. At this point I decided that the tendril needed to be removed and, after doing so, I was able to further shape and refine the area.
I wanted the hole that I drilled from front side to the back side through the top behind the "heart" to serve as a visual connector between the two sides. I gradually opened the hole wider and curved the area around it on the back side, thinning the surrounding walls. Finally I changed the curve at the top from convex to concave, then refined and sanded the area.
After adjusting the texture of the surfaces around the edge of the callus, making the right side smooth and creating a tradition from smooth to rough on the left side, the final step before mounting the piece on a base was to coat it with satin polyurethane. This process brought out a variety of color variations both in the natural surfaces and the sanded surfaces. The piece was ready for mounting with rod to base...tune in for Wonderland Part 5.
The shared elements that I addressed first were the shared rough "tendrils" at the lower left and upper right sides. I had to access whether they were necessary elements to the form and, if they were, were they structurally sound enough to be retained. The second areas that needed assessment were the shared perimeter edges (the actual thickness of the wood that surrounded the the branch hole) - both were very rough and splintery. I had to decide if I wanted to smooth them, how much of each I wanted to smooth out, and what sort of shaping might be appropriate for the form, not to mention how to incorporate the tendrils!
In addition to the previously mentioned decisions, there was the question of how I would eventually mount the piece. I knew that I wanted the heart shape at the top and that the form, because of its natural shape, would not be able to stand on its own. Sometimes the material limits your options, but also presents you with a clear solution. In this case, it appeared that the only logical and effective way to display the piece would be to mount it on a rod in a wooden base...and the only spot on the piece of wood that was thick enough and in a place that would allow the desired positioning was at the bottom of the piece of wood opposite the heart. As long as the area could be shaped appropriately and drilled correctly - problem solved! A closer look at the solutions in my next blog post... stay tuned!
As I began to refine and shape the elongated wood "tendril" on the left side I saw that it had an interesting way of echoing the contour of that side. After creating an opening at the "peak" to echo the opening of the branch hole, I continued to shape the area to the right of the tendril and, in doing so, I uncovered a small worm hole. Instead just of ignoring it, I tried to eliminate it by chiseling out more material but this revealed a cluster of worm holes. I ended up totally reshaping the area (I was pleased with the change), but it also exposed a splintery crack at the base of the tendril that made its survival doubtful. I was able to repair and strengthen the area by filling it with Quickwood (a mastic epoxy). This repair allowed me to continue to refine the shape of the tendril and the area around it.
The fate of the second side element, a smaller "tendril", was decided after a step by step removal of bark at the lower end and side of the piece. As I removed the surrounding bark, I also started to shorten the length of the tendril. Initially I thought that it could act to mirror the upper tendril on the other side, but eventually I decided that it did nothing to enhance the form of the piece and needed removal. Again I was faced with a structural dilemma - a crack at the base of the tendril necessitated removing a fairly deep chunk of wood. There was no going back. In the end, I was pleased with the results of my re-shaping and sanding efforts.
After applying a coat of satin polyurethane, I decided that the remaining area of bark was too uniform in texture. In order to vary the surface quality and break up the shape of the barked area, I smoothed out spaces at the top and bottom creating the effect of a raised bark oval around the branch hole. The side now felt complete. In my next blog post I will recount the evolution of the second side of the maple branch hole sculpture. Stay tuned!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words - I certainly hope so! I tend to take a lot of "in progress" photos while I work, but I think went a bit overboard on my latest piece. I was finding it a bit daunting to narrow down the number of photos for a blog entry, so I decided that this project would require a multi-installment approach. So here goes Side 1, Part 1.
As I looked around my studio for a project to fill the extended void of time and mobility created by the Covid-19 pandemic, my eye settled on a piece of natural maple that I had rescued some time ago from a pile of wood destined for the wood stove after yet another a tree trimming session. It not only had a perfectly round healed tree branch hole, but it had very interesting internal growth pattern on its reverse side that featured varied shapes, colors, and textures. And so ...I began.
The problem with random pieces of barked natural wood is that you never know what you will find once you start removing material, especially bark. It can cover a variety of welcome surprises and unwelcome complications... hidden worm holes, weak spots that, for better or worse, can alter your intended plan of action. The key to making progress is to remain flexible! In a subtractive sculpture, especially when working with a natural material that is a random shape and presents a variety of surfaces and textures, each time you chisel off a piece of material you are presented with a multitude of decisions that ultimately can determine the path you must follow to completion.
Side 1 presented me with a variety of minor decisions, like deciding how much bark to remove, and 2 major issues - one that required a repair to a structural flaw in order to retain a desired element and one that required extreme reshaping after falling prey to a hidden cluster of deep worm holes. The story will continue in my next blog posting...stay tuned!
*View this year's entries at: www.yarmouthartfestival.com
My plaster fish pieces have done well at this show in the past, but not having any of them available I needed to "go fishing", so I got out my clay and began rolling out slabs. I first began making these fish plaster reliefs in 2015 for the 10x10brunswick show (see my blog posts for 8/10/15 and 8/29/15). Over the past 5 years I have continued to make them, adding an additional wooden fish template, varying the size of the clay slabs and the arrangement of the fish, and experimenting with various materials to create different "sea weed" effects.
In addition to the threaded rod, I found that I had a piece of 1/2" aluminum tubing which fit nicely over the rod and would hide the exposed threading. I knew the aluminum wouldn't take a patina, but I also found a piece of 5/8" copper tubing that would - and it fit easily over the aluminum tube. I used a black cold patina on the copper tube and sealed it with satin lacquer. Then I began the process of elevating "Upstairs". After removing the original 1/4" threaded rod, I used a tap & die to drill out a new threaded hole (as you can see from the photo, I did not have a lot of room to spare!), and then screwed (and epoxied) the new rod into place. Next I enlarged the hole that ran through the base to fit the larger sized rod, and deepened the recess on the bottom of the base to accommodate the larger nut needed to attach the rod and sculpture to the base.
The final adjustment that I made to the base was to add a small wooden square over the hole in the top of the base. I made a hole 5/8" in diameter in the center of the square that would serve to hold the tubes surrounding the rod securely in place. Now all that was left to do was to mount the piece on the base and tighten the nut...or was it? Once I had the sculpture mounted my "internal critic" told me there was something missing. I immediately knew what I needed to do. I dug out the 3 small bronze balls that were extras left over from another earlier sculpture. Each measured about 5/8" in diameter and had a bronze peg extending from it that could be utilized as an attachment appendage. After determining the optimum position for each of the balls on the top surface of the base beneath the mounted sculpture, I used a right angle drill attachment to make 3 holes in the wood and then epoxied the pegged balls into place. Now - it was complete. I will leave interpretation of the piece to the individual viewer.
Note: "Upstairs Downstairs" can be viewed at River Arts Gallery in their new location at 36 Elm Street Plaza in Damariscotta from July 15th through August 15th.
The process of getting the gallery ready for opening presented its own new challenges. Once we were given approval from the state to open, we had to then determine if and when the 25 members artists would feel comfortable opening up and sitting the gallery. The next step was to schedule time for each artist to set up their display area so there wouldn't be more than a few people in the gallery at a time. We also decided that would not be having the two open house events that had originally been on our calendar for the 2020 season. We opened the gallery for the first two weekends in June in oder to test out our safety protocols before opening full time on June 19th. Things have gone fairly smoothly so far, and we have been happy to have lots of "Maine-ahs" on "staycation" stopping by who are out enjoying the myriad of offerings of midcoast Maine.
Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.