Olive root burl,

Santos Rosewood, Ebony

18"W x 68"H x 11"D

The olive root burl Smoke is carved from was given to me by a woodworking friend named Ron Gill who lives outside of Phoenix, AZ. I visited him while in Arizona for a family celebration. He had a pile of them stacked outside his garage. "Feel free to take one". My bags had been packed to overflow on the flight down. I picked a small piece and hoped I could fit it in. "No, really take a big one". I sorted though the stack, picked what I thought was an interesting one, borrowed a suitcase and flew it home.

A number of years before this I had been talking to an old friend about ideas for sculptures. I remember describing flowing forms. A few weeks later I received an e-mail from him with a link to an article on taking photos of smoke. "What about forms like this?"

Pretty cool idea.

While staring at the burl, which, I have to admit, was not very pretty, I remembered the article. I pulled up some of the images. Was it possible there was a "Smoke" in there?

I started carving the next day. I carved every day after that for four months. It became a bit of an obsession...

The burl was heavily weathered. In many areas I had to remove a lot of material to get down to good solid wood. I also removed a number of trunks the root system had sent up. The search for forms became a real collaboration. I had to work with what the burl gave me. Often, that changed dramatically as I removed material. Every day I carved was a new adventure. Those days of carving were some of the most focused, absorbed, Zenish days of my career.

It's hard to believe that under all that ugly - there was something so beautiful. The olive wood is very dense and fine grained. I love the burnt orange color and all the dramatic figuring. One of my favorite parts are the rocks. There are many that were embedded in the wood - it had grown around them.

I decided to put small LED lights in the top of the pedestal. They do a great job of creating highlights and getting light into areas left in shadow by overhead lights.

All in all a very fun project. I expect I will be doing more. Ron has a truckload of similar burls and he is waiting for me to come and get them...