17"W, 17"D, 55"H
Figured Pink Ivory, Holly
There have been many inspirations that have led to the different projects I have pursued. Interpretations of historically significant pieces of furniture, forms I wished to explore, woods that inspired me. This project grew as much from technical challenges I wished to explore, as it did from the forms I chose.
The first technical challenge had to do with creating a delicate structure, that supported an even more delicate webbing or fabric - like the ribs and veins of a leaf support the fabric or blade of the leaf. A fuzzy picture had been floating around my head for years. In this picture the support structure was made from one wood - the web from another.
I had studied a lot of marine forms in preparation for my last project "Glory". "Glory" was based on sea anemone forms, but I had also seen a lot of coral formations that attracted me. I went back to the internet and studied more corals. I also studied old, gnarly trees and banzai. In the end, I found inspiration, but no species that I wanted to do a literal interpretation of. Not the first time I had been in such a dilemma, so I did as I had before - I played God and created my own species.
The main trunk and branches of "Harmony" are carved from one, 2 1/2 inch thick piece of pink ivory. It was quite tricky, delicate carving. The holly I carved the webs from was a friendlier wood to carve. I started with 1 1/4 inch thick stock and needed every bit of that thickness to create the flowing forms I was looking for. Fitting the webs to their openings was a painstaking process. Getting them all glued in place without breaking anything was a big win! It felt like I had been holding my breath for a week.
When I started, I assumed that at this point, I would attach some kind of post to the sculpture and make a small pedestal for it. The idea of carving a base - with a trunk bottom and roots radiating out - took shape as I was working on the piece. I'm glad I did it. I like the effect a lot. The piece of pink ivory I carved it from is probably the most beautiful single piece of wood I've ever worked with.
At this point I had clearly moved beyond a simple pedestal. Something in the nature of a tall, delicate, highly detailed stand seemed more in order. The stand incorporates two more significant technical challenges - the carved holly drapery molding and the pink ivory legs with twisted flutes. About 15 years ago I did a set of hall tables with carved drapery moldings around the skirt bottom. I liked the effect, but had been wanting to give the concept another try. I must be learning. I think these came out significantly better.
The legs had me banging my head against a wall for quite a while. I have done many projects with fluted legs, but the flutes were straight. It is possible to carve them completely by hand, but for a number of reasons it's just not practical. The flutes are cut by a router, mounted to a sled, which is part of a jig you build and mount to a lathe. Close to 30 years ago, I saw a photo of a desk with legs that had twisted flutes. I remember thinking "How the hell did he do that?". I've been pondering on that question for 30 years. Afraid there is only room here for the short story. I figured it out. Actually gave me a bit of a fat head.
Pink ivory is a very special wood. Widely held to be the "Holy grail" of exotic woods, this stock came from Mozambique. Rare and treasured, it is hard to find in pieces larger than knife handle or pen blanks. I know people who make jewelry with it. To find stock the size I worked with is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Make that stock highly figured with exceptional color - I'm not sure what to call it. I've been sitting on this close to 25 years. Waiting for the right project. Holly is also quite special. This came from Pennsylvania. There is a whole science just to harvesting and drying it. This is what we call instrument grade holly.
I wanted to create a special piece that did honor to these special woods. I also wanted to challenge myself and show off the skills 40 years of woodworking have taught me. I'm grateful for another great journey.