thanks for stopping by.... if you scroll down the first 30 blogs document my art journey from 1999 to present ... there are also blogs on more intensive works under the Archives section >>>>>
My journey into bringing my own unique concepts to the field of woodwork/wood art and sculpture took motion in 1999. While attending Temple University for jazz performance I was hired at Ibanez guitars to perform quality control on guitars eventually turning into specializing in repair and custom work over an 11 year period.
My first day I was immediately drawn to a shop full of woodworking machinery that was no longer much in use. I was always customizing my guitars growing up and always dreamed of making my own. One of the benefits of working at Ibanez was the ability to create/purchase "Frankenstein" guitars made from random parts. I began to use the machinery to make wood parts for my custom guitars.
Through reading books and much trial and error I taught myself the process of creating a guitar (sorry kids no youtube back then) After creating three guitars from scratch I thought it would benefit me to learn more general knowledge of woodwork.
I was lucky that there was an incredible woodworking program led by Mark Sfirri, a pioneer in contemporary woodwork close by at Bucks County Community College. I enrolled in classes in 2001. Mark's passion and teaching ability in the field of woodwork/sculpture and art exposed me to a new universe that I immediately knew was my calling.
STUDIES AT BUCKS COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
2001 FALL SEMESTER
Our first project was to create a box that was hand dovetailed. Growing up around antiques and having the love for finely crafted works I was excited to learn the process of dovetail joinery!
I went to a local lumber retailer and was drawn to a really cool piece of Bubinga. I chose it because it had a landscape effect, almost sand to red hot sunset sky that I thought would look great wrapping around the box.
At the time I didn't know much about exotic woods and found out the next class from Mark that I selected a more difficult species of wood to try my first attempt at dovetails due to how dense and unforgiving it was.
My works have created a timeline of my life. In this case reflecting back on this piece and time period instantly takes me back to a Tuesday as I was looking forward to going to school and working on dovetailing the box. I still remember the bright blue sky and crisp morning as fall approached.
Then news started to break. Unsettled feelings. Disbelief. Shock as the 9/11 attacks were unfolding. Anybody who is old enough to remember that day will remember that it took a long time to get back to "the norm" and in many ways it will never be back.
Reflecting back on my first project :
Yes Mark was correct that Bubinga was a little more challenging than the mahogany that I hand dovetailed on the following project.
Hand made dovetails are very time consuming and generally never seen in production woodwork even in higher level craft. I really loved everything about creating the box from laying out and marking the dovetails. Hand sawing the lines as accurately as possible and using a chisel to clean up and create as tight of a fit as possible.
I love opportunities like this to participate in traditions that rely on simple tooling but challenge the skills of the craftsperson.
I used walnut pieces for the lid with a piece of Zirocote extending upwards to act as a place to grasp and open the box as well as add detail to the piece
19 years later the box still remains a very significant object to me. The beauty of natural woods and interlocking dovetails create a timeless box that became the true genesis on my journey in the field of woodwork.
Our assignment for the remainder of my first semester studying fine woodworking was to create a piece comprised of drawers and doors that utilized hand cut dovetailed joints for the construction of the work.
I wanted to design a functional art piece that had rhythm and motion as well as utilize unordinary pulls to open the drawers and doors.
For the front of the piece I interpreted guitar lines from the jazz guitar solo on Four on Six by my favorite player Wes Montgomery.
The hand dovetailed carcass and internal drawers were made from beautiful ribbon mahogany with the drawer and door fronts being routed and hand shaped out of 2" thick mahogany.
One of the other features of the piece was hand smithing the base for the cabinet to rest on.
Growing up I learned a ton watching and helping my Uncle Rudy, a metal worker, lover of blacksmithing and overall important person in my life. Although I sadly never have time to create in the medium of blacksmithing I love and appreciate the craft of shaping dangerously red hot metal into malleable forms.
Reflecting back on the piece:
I really love the pairing of wood and metal and wish I had more time to explore designs around that combination. (someday!)
The piece will always remind me of my grandpop. He was a sweet, kind, gentle, happy and humble man. I remember how proud he was of the piece I made.
Sadly he passed away a short time after creating it but I'm glad that he got to see the first piece of furniture I ever made.
second semester :
fine woodworking II
desk for Andrew
walnut exterior/ maple interior/ bubinga top/ ebonized ash legs with natural ash wedges
The second semester of fine woodworking focused on joinery and techniques used in furniture construction.
I grew up loving an antique roll top desk I had and wanted to create my own version of a desk with a top that slid into the back when in use.
I designed a pod type body that had both a traditional and futuristic feel.
I learned about trestle style joinery/construction and felt it would work the best for my design. The angled wedges are driven into a mortise on the cross members of the desk provided a very solid joint.
Another benefit of using this type of joint was it could be easily disassembled for transportation as at the time I had a small sports car that wouldn't fit into otherwise.
This piece is dedicated to my cousin Andrew who tragically passed away way too young at 19 when I was creating the work.
Andrew had been and will always continue to be an inspiration in my life as I pursue my dreams, my way.
As my first year of studying fine woodworking was coming to an end my teacher Mark encouraged us to create a piece for an annual woodworking competition/exhibition held at the Wharton Esherick museum.
Wharton Esherick is considered the dean of American craft bringing elements of artistry and sculpture to the field of woodwork from the early 1900's to 1970. His awe inspiring home and studio are located roughly 40 minutes from Philadelphia.
I was excited to find out that the 2002 theme was music stands.
I didn't have much machinery at my disposal as school was over so I designed a work that I could create with rather simple tools, mostly a jigsaw and bandsaw.
I saw the stand as a musical composition. I took elements and concepts from jazz, relationships of shapes, space, structures and colors intertwined.
It was important to me that the shelf that holds sheet music be fully adjustable depending on whether the musician is sitting or standing.
original sketch for O' Norman
NAMING THE WORK
After completing the piece I took it outside to take slide photos of it. Yes if you were creating works pre 2004ish you probably experienced the annoying task of taking/submitting slides to be juried for exhibitions before the digital era took over.
I took the pictures in my parents beautiful garden to submit for the exhibition then left for the day. Upon returning home I was greeted by my dad who was really upset.
He explained that he wanted to get pictures for me on his camera when a gust of wind knocked over the piece cracking it in the center section. He blamed it on "Norman", a name I never heard. He was supposed to be named Norman at birth before it was changed to Paul.
The next day the Esherick museum called to congratulate me on the piece getting accepted into the show but also to ask if I could take pictures of the piece with a white background behind it for the brochure. I didn't want to tell them that "well the piece is in pieces."
I told them that I needed a week to be able to find a place to take professional pictures which was more about working super hard to create as close of a replica as possible. i disassembled the original and used it as a template for the new Norman.
(the original Norman)
The exhibition opened in September and Norman won second place. It took me a couple years to fess up to those at the museum that the piece on display was not the original and tell them the story of Norman.
Obviously Norman holds a dear place in my heart for many many reasons.
My 3rd an 4th semesters in the fine woodworking program I took classes in table construction , chair making, design, production techniques and architectural woodwork.
Many of the pieces I created I no longer have nor have pictures of. The two pieces that I do however still own are from my table making class.
I chose to make two coffee tables to utilize techniques and joinery learned over the semester as well as techniques from other classes
The first piece was insecTABLE made out of mahogany.
As I thought of creative designs the concept of taking the traditional four leg table, flipping it upside down and adding a ridiculous amount of legs.
At some point the concept of a giant dead bug on it's back emerged. It was a good opportunity to utilize woodturning and steam bending techniques that I was learning about.
Each leg was turned unique to itself as I also saw the legs as a crowd of people engaged in various conversation.
I first turned the body on the lathe using a technique Mark was well known for called "off center" turning out of 4" thick mahogany. By offsetting the wood from exact center on the lathe you can create asymmetrical forms like the oval body on this work.
I also use the turning gouge and with a sharp point to rip against the grain creating the fuzzy look on the ends.
I then turned the legs on the lathe much like the typical spindles you would see in chairs and railings but gave each one a unique identity.
I then created a simple jig of a portable electric stove burner with a tea kettle filled with water that boiled steam into a 4" wide PVC pipe. I placed the turned spindles into the pipe relaxing the natural glue cells in the wood making them able to bend in curved jigs I created.
My sister suggested I call it insecTABLE and who can really argue with that name.
The second piece was called Big City Dream based of a poem I wrote.
It featured a wood from Australia called Lacewood for the panels with tiger maple rails/ mahogany legs with maple, bent maple intertwined on the inside.
I once again wanted to employ non traditional legs that had volume and designed the curved and tapered V sections of the legs with ebonize maple rings creating a unique sculpted look.
The panels for this piece were turned on the lathe to create portholes. It was definitely a little scary and dangerous to be turning the sections out of balance.
At the time I was taking a production techniques class creating acoustic guitars and learning how to steam bend the sides of the guitars.
It was challenging at first to try not to crack the thin the wood bending it to shape so I started creating more abstract bends to work on technique . I utilized it to create a sculptural element to the center of the table as it represented the captured energy of a city.
I was awarded the core 10 award for both works at the student exhibition that year
In the fall of 2004 I enrolled in woodcarving studying under the man of many talents Jon Alley. This would be my final class studying fine woodworking.
I didn't realize at the time that this class would open the door to what would become my calling and passion in life.
Previous to this class I did enjoy the act of shaping wood whether it was guitars or various projects. Jon would bring in examples of his work and I was always blown away and wanted to become as good as he was.
During this semester I did more experimenting versus making complete projects. I do not have any works left from this time period as I did a big cleanup of my shop a few years back and felt it was best to offer them up to the trash gods instead of occupying space.
Although we learned to carve placing our work on benches I found it to be most comfortable for me to carve on my lap. I feel it gives me the advantages of being very close to my work, be able to quickly reposition the work, create angles that a more advantageous to carve at. (and thankfully have only ever had one slightly minor accident)
One of the other benefits of creating work without needing a workbench is the ability to work anywhere. I love the energy of being outdoors, the fresh air as well as the ability to see flaws that need to be worked on that may not be caught with indoor lighting.
Woodcarving is a craft that occupies most of the senses at once. The obvious being sight, the smell of the wood as it's being paired away, Hearing the percussive chisel strikes from the mallet to slick almost paper tearing sounds of more delicate glides across the wood. The touch and feel as a piece progresses as well the sense of proprioception.
Proprioception is the brain understanding where your body is in space. I would imagine that through playing guitar for most of my life and spending thousands of hours carving I have developed a noticeable ability to catch objects when they fall for instance. Almost like there is an added half second in a second that I can relax and have confidence in knowing I don't have to panic if something falling or really even look. The development of this sense is more aparent in striking the gouge with a mallet and knowing where the tool will be without looking.
To celebrate my 10th anniversary in woodworking in 2011 I decided to treat myself to $1000 in new carving tools while most importantly choosing to have them lasered engraved with some quotes by some of my favorites including the wrestler Ric Flair and boxer Mike Tyson to give them extra magic.
I also began to paint the main gouges I use in various colors so that when I carve I'm not searching and fumbling around . I know that pink is my small straight or lime green is my #5 fishtail etc.so everything flows.
REFLECTIONS ON WOODCARVING
Woodcarving has created a special place for me to exist in. A place of joy, peace, deep thought, spirituality. It will challenge me to the day I die to continue to get better. My carvings are songs and expressions of where I am in life and where I dream to be.
Woodcarving is an escape in that no matter how tough of a situation is in my life the second I start carving my focus is shifted away to the creative space where I can only concentrate on what I am working on.
My art represents my life story, hopes, thoughts, dreams and the pursuance of greatness in my craft and I'm thankful to have found woodcarving as the vehicle of my expression.
One of the highlights of 2004 was going to Dallas, Texas to be a part of the Eric Clapton Crossroads festival as an employee of Ibanez guitars. It was an incredible weekend filled with a ridiculous lineup of so many guitarists that influenced me growing up.
I suggested to create a special guitar to be displayed for the event and designed/created the "Texas" guitar in less than two weeks.
The "Texas" guitar is one of my favorite pieces I've ever made. I sprayed it with a dark sunburst to create a guitar that looked like it had been aging in the hot Texas heat as well as placed the star/volume knob over the approximate capital city of Austin.
As awkward as the guitar may have looked it was actually kind of comfortable to play and ripped tonally due to a custom Seymour Duncan pickup.
As I look back at 2004 it is a year that laid the foundation for who I became as an artist/woodworker.
Moving into my new house, no longer in school and having limited machinery I began to create more "sculptural works" as well as develop what has become the style I have become most accustomed to which is creating works out of single panels of wide wood.
One of the first works made in the second half of that year was "Self Portrait" carved out of basswood. It was mostly improvised and very loosely interpreted with about 3 carving tools at my disposal at the time.
The next piece I created was Komposition #1, a reflection on existence.
At the time I only had a lathe for wood turning, a band saw and simple hand tools for carving. I turned a square piece of mahogany on the lathe with 8 rings around the center to represent power, balance and a new beginning. I then cut it up into pieces and rearranged them to create the red sections of the work.
The raised black panel represented the protected fetus and the turned fractured "egg" on a spoon represented life and fertility.
The last piece I created this year and maybe the most important to me was :
Stars and Stripes Suicide
I have had many influences in my life and the attitude and mission of punk music flavored this piece.
It was a commentary on all the things going on in popular culture in America that I just saw a vapid. The figure in the piece is just trying to escape what is being forced upon him.
This piece would represent the first time I purchased a wide single board of mahogany to carve on. Once again at this time I am lacking machinery and money to create more elaborate works so I utilize simple carving tools to communicate my feelings.
The crudely drawn face is exploding from the side of his head with quickly drawn stars that float into an upside down flag showing distress.
As a woodworker it's always tough to be "punk." Most woodwork is polished and meant to look pretty for the consumer. I'm always impressed when I see attitude in woodwork as wood can be a tough material to communicate these feelings through.
I was excited to see what the 2004 theme for the Esherick show would be chess sets.
Although I never learned how to play the game of chess I do feel that the craft of woodworking (and life) is a chess match. You have to be constantly thinking and planning many steps ahead. That concept was the basis of the title of the work "Before" as it's always wise to think before acting, a lesson I sometimes still (always) forget!
I wanted the piece to be viewed as a celebration of beautiful woods.
My focus was to create a unique playing surface and designed the board to have a "woven" look. It took two tries to perfectly engineer this so that the walnut and cherry blocks created a free floating aesthetic.
I encased the board with beautiful tiger maple and added ebony squares on the corners.
I really loved how the finished board came out, as described in the newsletter for the exhibition:
I also wanted to create a box for the pieces to be held in when not in use. I designed the work so that the playing surface would lift off the box to accomplish this.
I was gifted an incredible piece of Koa and was excited to use it. Koa is a wood specific to Hawaii. It has always been my favorite wood species as the color range is incredibly rich and has amazing 3d luster when there is figure in the grain like the photo above.
At the time it was becoming scare and expensive and has become even more so today as exportation of the wood is highly restricted. This would be the only time I've ever had the opportunity to use the wood and literally had just enough to create the box.
I lined the lip of the box with brass to create a beautiful glowing combination of wood and metal.
I finished the work with red and blue pieces that would color pop off the board with the queens embellished with freely drawn gold lines.
As far as craftmanship and design it may be one of my favorite works still to this day. The work was accepted into the exhibition and I was tremendously excited. Most importantly to show with Michael Brolly who was someone who I really looked up to!
During this time period at Ibanez guitars there were a lot of fun custom projects coming way from Ozzfest to Sony Halo 3 but this was my favorite by far. (and still is)
One of my earliest memories was at 5 years old when the Phanatic ran across the top of my Dad's car pressing his face against the back window where I was sitting and completely terrifying me.
I was raised a Phillies fan. Dreamed of playing baseball for them but this is as close as my skills got me to the field! I'm happy that 15 years later the guitar is still in use at random games.
The one criteria for this project was to make the guitar as light as possible so I created the body out of foam that was then fiberglassed and painted.
Another fun project along with the prop guitar was creating a custom guitar for the great Skip Denenberg with the Phillies theme as well for the release of his album Songs from Inside The Park.
also got to make a "large" ring when the Phillies won the world series a few years later
2005 was a continuation of using single wide mahogany boards to create descriptive works that were based off of poems I wrote.
They were minimalistic pieces due to lack of tools but I also saw the opportunity to use the boards to mount objects to. I saw this as a huge advantage versus someone who creates on canvas.
The first three works feature the four tiered "E" that I was using a lot at the time.
I haven't revisited the concept of inclusion of objects into carvings but often think about it and want to. (maybe soon!)
The first work created that year was When She Sleep.
The work features a crudely drawn female torso with a copper bowl for the breast. It also features a wisdom tooth that has been consumed and the words LOVE and LIAR coexisting. The work is thematically about someone lying through their teeth.
Looking back on this work I really love the amount of texture and patterns I was able to create out of such a small amount of carving.
It is punk. It is tough but still beautiful.
The next work was WORTH. Another very crude punk piece featuring a female torso with an outline of a 3d cube for head, resin cast money in stomach, string and nails blurring reality and the phrase "ARE YOU AS" scratched into the paint.
The piece questions true reality versus false
The third piece is DELICATE SCIENCE and deals with lust for power and beauty.
I chose to combine the image of Hitler to represent lust for power, Monroe for lust for beauty while using the most recognizable piece of art of the 20th century as the basis for the work in Warhol's Monroe.
The open windows represent a cycle. The seeds : the inception/ torn newspaper : the spreading of information and dead poppies : the end that hold the beginning.
The bottom of the work is inscribed :
I closed my eyes for only a second
the slowest second
for it was where I existed
and shall never exist again.
The last wall piece I created in 2005 was SHE IS OF MAPS
A very simple piece, I loved the interplay of the painted black surface softly rippling with gouge marks and simple line carving showing the natural mahogany.
The piece represents the complexity of what makes us all unique to ourselves featuring clues that have been resin cast.
Once again I was looking forward to receiving the invitational brochure to find out what the theme for this years Esherick exhibition would be. I like having a theme because it challenges me to design and create works that are thoughtful and unique while having a focus.
This years theme was …….
At the time I only had a few carving gouges and a lathe so I focused on creating an object that combined both.
For the 2006 themed competition/exhibition at the Esherick Museum the theme was.....
I began to think of design concepts as it is always my first thought to go a little outside the box. Keeping the functionality is important but pushing form is always priority.
The first piece I designed was based of a poem I wrote called A BEAUTIFUL WOMB.
I wanted to create a four sided cutting board that could be viewed as a sculpture when not in use.
I wanted to also draw the viewer into the center or "womb" part of the work as the outside carved mahogany spirals into the center of the box that contained sharply cut pieces of Lacewood that grew smaller towards the back of the work.
The back view of the work shows the energy intensified and escaping.
The second piece I created was based off another poem I wrote called :
A NEW BEGINNING.
This piece featured the anticipation of an awaiting hand as a sphere is about to drop. The sphere acts as a locking mechanism when the cutting board is in use.
The hand was the first "realistic" carving I created and over the next couple years I would do variations on the theme of the hand but I really loved how the work came out and so did the Esherick Museum....
GENETICALLY CLONED AND SLIGHTLY ALTERED ROCKING BUSHEEP
I saw an opportunity to create works for an exhibition called Dysfunctional Furniture. The concept of making some sort of child's rocker was in my head which then turned to making an ode to the current President George Bush and his stance on cloning.
I created the two Busheep out of walnut and maple, with painted maple/copper handle bars and zebrawood appointments.
I was really happy at how clean these works came out and still up there on my list of favorites.
A simple straight forward form based carving that was covered in plaster and chipped away at.
everything is a distraction
This work was a continuation on my concept of creating lathe turned and hand shaped fried eggs. It was the first time that I created a "work" out of them.
view the meaning of my fried eggs at :
The following works were created after Sockrates for the 2007 Esherick exhibition.
They were portraits of my friends. I really loved making them and wish I had more time to create more.
I utilized a heavy rasp to give them a worn cotton aesthetic to them.
view more detail pics of these works :
The 2007 theme for the Esherick show was ….
I wanted to enter two works into the show, one fun and one more serious.
The first work I created was off based of a poem I wrote called The Captured Soul.
As a lover of anatomy I wanted to incorporate the heart as an object that had been dissected to have the soul removed, resewn and transform into a flourishing object encased in an atrium.
The soul was represented in a small carving laying next to the heart .
I turned then steam bent the maple spears growing out of the heart.
This was the beginning to a more focused shift in anatomical works.
The piece functions by turning the portion just below the copper wire having the groun pepper fall out of the bottom of the heart.
As I was thinking/designing the second work for the show while driving a long distance the concept of a sock puppet popped into my head. I felt it would a great opportunity to work on my carving technique by trying to create a super realistic wrinkled sock so I sketched what would become Sockrates.
I carved "I am the wisest sock of all, for I know one thing, and that is I know nothing" - Sockrates out of mahogany.
It was the first time I started to utilize rasps in my carvings which created the pulled cotton look.
Creating Sockrates also let me revisit the concept of using objects outside of wood in my work like the wall reliefs I created in 2004-2005.
His head detaches to fill the cavity with pepper seeds. To use him he lifts off the zebrawood pedestal and by turning his head pepper comes out the bottom of the sock.
He was accepted in the exhibition and remains one of my favorite works to date.
I went on to create more themed sock puppets over the following year that can be viewed at :
The title "the captured soul" went on to become the name for my first website domain circa 2009- 2015
2008 is a significant year as it was the beginning of carving outdoors around Philadelphia. For me the ability to create in the energy of outdoors has become a major factor in my art.
The first work I created was "powerless".
Carved from a single piece of 4" thick X 6" wide mahogany this work was a direct reflection of emotions I was going through. Falling out of love, hopeful, missing love, wondering and feeling powerless.
Every time I create a work my intentions are to take what I have learned from the previous and surpass it. powerless was a challenging work.
powerless would be the second carved hand following the 2006 sculpture based cutting board "A New Beginning."
It was important to be as realistic in the carving as possible from the veins to the pinch between the thumb and index finger.
The nail driven into the vein an bending from being pulled represented the yearning for pulse. The string holding onto the slightest amount of hope while the fingers gesture to the self "you will be ok" while also the symbolically saying to a person "yeah sure" I don't believe you.
I then created the envelope piece called self portrait
I used Ambroisia Maple for this work which is known for it's streaks in the wood left behind by the ambrosia beetle burrowing through the wood. Using it would give every envelope a uniqueness.
The "self portrait" in envelope form represents a life of experiences pilled up in sculptural form.
This piece was the first time I started carving around Philadelphia. I sculpted/detailed every envelope in the Azelea garden behind the art museum.
I continued the theme of carved envelopes with Time
The envelope represented the self and black sand the journey that is spilling out.
The final envelope piece was "buttons"
"buttons" is a piece reflective of my Nan who was my last living grandparent at the time and someone I was very close to. She was very sick at the time. Buttons represented to me mending, fixing and bringing together.
The theme for the 2008 Esherick show was
I was excited to make a chair and began to contemplate/sketch ideas. If a concept would pop into my mind at work at Ibanez guitars sometimes they were sketched on the back of warranty cards like the two original sketches for structures and is your heart free?
The first work Structures was designed to create a functional art chair that seemed non functional and would make the person leary about sitting in it but still be very strong.
After building the chairs "structure" or skeleton I added a glowing fluorescent plexiglass seat then completed the work by it a encasing it like a spider web.
The next work was Is your heart free?
This piece was created to be kind of anti chair. A lot of chair design and construction becomes so labor some with delicate precise joinery. These "labor of loves" begin to lack emotion and feeling because of how time consuming they become.
I wanted to make this work in one day to captured the emotion behind it. The piece featured a birds nest with a front screen placed where the heart would be. It has been pulled open to beg the question has love escaped or return to nest again.
The cedar shingles have been placed the wrong way to show that while it may be protected it will eventually break down due to the elements like rain falling downwards.
Is your heart free was accepted into the exhibition.
The first work I completed in 2009 was Some Days I Own the World and Some Days the World Owns Me, basically a self portrait in begging dog form.
I designed him to be a hybrid animal mixing a Chihuahua with the Chupacabra or as I called him a Chupachihuahua
One of the features I love about this piece are the deep black ebony eyes I turned on the lathe.
The next piece was I wish you were here with me (right now)
This work is a deep contemplative/introspective work.
One of the unexpected details of the finished work was the glass in the bottom as the piece fell off the wall just after being completed crashing through the glass top on insecTABLE. I felt it added to the theme an overall work so left the pieces that found their way into the box.
The next two works were inspired by the decorative lawn ornaments of pink flamingos.
As I saw the typical plastic pink flamingos as representing the perfect American dream life these were meant to represent the opposite.
The first one was Triumphant.
It was carved out of mahogany, painted and scribed with a poem that I wrote. I purposely broke it and repaired it poorly to show the state out disrepair in America.
The second work was Falling in love is easy.
The next piece was a cabinet titled I'm Sorry I Won't Do it Again.
I saw a call for entries for cabinets for Lark books 500 series. I wanted to make an unusual cabinet and well at the time at work there was some practical joking going on involving balloon popping and the phrase "i'm sorry I won't do it again" so paid homage it.
It was a very fun piece to create turning a large block of maple on the lathe, hand carving the knot and adding the razor blade pull to create a little danger.
The piece was accepted into the exhibition and was super excited to find out it would be located in the gallery section.
I enjoyed creating the balloon so much that I followed it up with You're All Talk.
The next piece made was you'll be ok boy.
This work was created after a poor pigeon I saw deceased in the street combining carving and found objects.
The last piece was hand and pail
This piece is based off of one of my favorite quotes "As I walk the universe walks with me." - Navajo
The theme for the 2009 years exhibition was …
Sadly this piece was created as a direct reflection of the loss of my Nan as well as other stuff happening that year.
It seemed that life was throwing obstacles my way any time I was trying to take a first step forward so I designed It's Been That Kind of Year.
The steps were made out of a naturally yellow wood called yellowheart with the banana peel carved into the first step
The structure holding the steps made from mahogany was designed to create a feel of unease.
I was happy that the piece I made in remembrance of my Nan was accepted into the exhibition.
My Nan was always proud of my accomplishments. I spent a lot of time with her after my Grandad passed away from ALS. We would make a lot of crafts together in her kitchen where I learned how to use a scroll saw to create little wood pieces starting around 19 years old. I was amazed by the process of creating works with it.
Looking back these days were beyond special to me and a huge reason for me getting into the craft of woodwork.
(one of my earliest works made back then below!!!)
2010 becomes my most productive year as a pure artist. I had lost my job that I held for 11 years and was going through many emotions from betrayal to inspired confidence.
At this time the economy was very poor and jobs were scarce. It was a struggle to hold onto my home but I fought and most important survived while trying to stay as positive and hopeful as possible.
My art became my refuge. Creating these works requires 100% attention as just in chess every move is important.
These works were 100% hand carved outdoors out of single piece wide boards of mahogany. I had very limited tools at the time which defined the style that defines me,
Other than HEARTBROKEN all the following works were created along Boathouse Row and the Azalea Garden behind the art museum in Philadelphia as I spent anywhere from 8- 10 hours indulged in my art.
This piece was made shortly before losing my job. I had befriended a gentleman with special needs that I learned passed away. We would share greetings and smiles and that was enough.
I utilized the four tiered "E" that I was using previously in carved wall reliefs in 2005 as well as an incomplete "N" to show hope.
I loved this beautiful piece of Spanish Cedar that had sap leaching to the top creating the speckles. It provided a great contrast to the natural cedar that was revealed through the carving of the letters.
I also loved the simplicity of this work as used only as straight rasp to outline the letters and one gouge to remove material inside the lines.
The first carving following my unemployment was No Man Shall Build Upon My Soil.
This piece was a self portrait of sorts defining who I was. The anvil represented strength. The hammer represented the drive and the apple purity and completeness.
The next work was Peace.
It was an homage to the classic tradition of throwing your sneakers onto electric lines whether to mark your territory or celebrate moving on.
One of the fun parts of creating this work was carving/creating space between the shoe lace and background.
The next work was The Resurrection.
Another self portrait as well as a trinity reference.
The outlet or power source is open, a gallon of milk showing purity and the light switch on open meaning giving light.
The one thing I will remember about this work is how loud and percussive it was when carving it.
Next carved Beautiful Wishes,
A self portrait as a strong racehorse on the move. I really enjoyed carving the shallow straps on this work.
I then carved I'm not afraid of dying.
This piece represented taking a bite out of life without care (or a cupcake) . I really liked carving the big jimmies (or sprinkles as some may say) as well as the punk quality of the paint job.
Next I created A Mother's Wisdom based off a poem I wrote.
As always whenever I would carve or create I was trying to take my craft to a new level. I designed the next work By the End of This Story You Will Be in Tears as another work in memory of my Nan passing
At the time I thought it was pretty intricate, made a dedication to the mostly forgotten era/ beauty and craft of the 1920"s to 1960"s
I then carved FATHER/SON.
This piece refers to the bond and strand holding a father and son together. It is also a continuation of the hands theme I had been producing over the years. This work features the most detailed version while in a 2d format.
The string in the picture below was carved to be floating off the board to produce the connection.
The next work was The Duke,
This work was in memory of my Grandad as not only a reference to his love for fishing but also the tangled lines representing the journey of life.
I remember him saying as we both got older in life " where did all the time go?" and doing this blog chronicling the past 19 years I 'm questioning the same.
I remember this piece as well as the one following We Once Existed as being the most challenging I've ever carved due to the interlocking grain of the wood. Interlocked grain is difficult to carve as typically you can successfully carve a piece of wood in one direction but this as you move for instance upwards you hit a spot that wont let you travel upwards. Even carving across the grain is problematic in this situation so you must get a feel and adapt.
We Once Existed
I created this work as I viewed my nephew Ethan at the time who reminded me of myself. He was around 2 at the time but inquisitive and exploring life. It took me back to a moment that was as clear as it is now when I was 5 and asked my mother what happened when we died. Although I will not elaborate on her response it is loosely interpreted in this piece.
To end 2010 my art begins to shift as I begin to utilize a variety of experimental concepts merged into what I was defining as "abstract anatomy" which I later defined in 2012 for a book on the making of the work TO LOVE IS TO SAVE.
These works were based around my love for anatomy drawings using a female silhouette with a rhino horn type of growth that contained a "power source" as well as the extended head that showing as cross section of the inner works.
The first work completed in this four part series was :
It was based off the Fibonacci sequence as well as utilizing the power and energy of scrolls.
The breathe is taken in from the mouth and directed into the main power source of the large spiral and distributed to the left side of the scrolls. Reflective of religion and God.
I then created FREEDOM
This work shows the power source as more of a flower that energizes a flourishing system.
The piece features the four tiered "E" once again and moon/sun over mountain in the lettering of FREEDOM.
I then created UNWOKEN.
This work is a reference to a poem I wrote with the beginning phrase "I am a dream unwoken"
The power source is reminiscent of St Basil's cathedral in Russia as architecture has always played a role in my mind/designs.
The last piece in this series is SURRENDER.
This work is fueled be the dispersion of sense of smell featuring a glowing abstract pine cone type power source and vented central brain system.
Surrender was another work that was difficult to care due to the interlocked grain.
I feel like I have a lot more to explore and add to this series. I have a ton of concepts sketched out but as with much of my art one finding time for everything is the major issue.