I’ll admit, I may have grown up on a farm, but I cannot identify the native hardwoods by grain. If I were able to do so, I would have realized the choice I was about to make was a bad one. To back up a little bit, I am putting two pieces in a show called “ReVision”. The premise of the show is that at least 80% of each piece is recycled, repurposed, or reclaimed in some way. So I started out by finding this really cool old frame with domed glass at an antique store called “Reclamation”. I then started rummaging through the garage and found this old board that came from my Grandpa Vining’s basement that was an old book shelf he never had the chance to restore. At the time it seemed like a natural fit, cut the board in and oval and pop it into the frame. But since the glass was curved, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to sand it to perfectly fit the curve of the glass. This is when my troubles began. I am no stranger to the process of sanding or carving of wood, but as soon as I put the 60 grit paper on the sander and started sanding, very little happened to the board. I could not believe how little effect it had. So I went out and bought 40 grit, it worked better, but still my power sander was taking so little wood away it was almost comical. I just couldn’t believe it. So I got out the jig saw and used it in about the most improper way possible but actually managed to cut a 45 degree angle all around the edge. It was a start. At this point I went back to the 40 grit and sanded for what seemed like hours. Eventually I got it.
Next came the actual carving, I used traditional linoleum block carving tools which was mistake number 2. It took so much force to cut through this wood that the kitchen table I was cutting on would move. I had to wrap my legs around the legs of the table to hold it in place. I have created wood block cuts in the past but have never experienced anything like this.
It was at about this point in the process yesterday when I went to the Indiana State Fair with some friends. While at the fair, we stumbled upon a couple of old timers carving some eagles and stuff out of wood. It didn’t occur to me at first but as I walked away I realized I had the above photos on my phone. So I went back and asked those guys if they could identify the wood for me. The looked at it and then asked why. I told them I was an artist too and carving it for an upcoming show. The one gentlemen quickly responed “with what” and I said hand tools. They both immediately laughed and knew that no one in their right mind would carve this wood by hand. The other guy picked up a tool plugged into the wall and told me I needed to get me one of those to carve with. I kind of felt like a fool in front of my friends but later we had a good laugh about it. Anyways, they identified it as quarter sawn white oak, one of the hardest woods out there besides hickory, the one said.
So I came home from the fair and decided to just keep going. My hand was actually starting to feel bruised from the carving but the artist in me had the vision I just need to see through to fruition. I couldn’t just set it aside after all the time I spent getting this far.
I kept going and once I started adding paint I started to get really excited.
Several layers of paint later I put the glass to the piece and there was still just a fraction of negative space in that curved area. I decided to take the nails that held the original back board to the frame and actually put those into the composition. I also busted apart the original hanger from the frame and put those pieces into the foreground too.
When I got it all pieced back together, I was really excited about the last second additions anding a very small 3D element that lingers in the negative space between the piece and the glass. It is a smaller piece but boy did it take a ton of hard work to bring this piece to life. I deliver it to the show tomorrow and am very proud of the result.