gift story

horse-chestnut, 2014

This is a gift from the big old conker tree at the corner. During spring and summer we had many storms. They must have taken their toll on the tree. But it didn’t give in until one night in fall when I was restless and had been talking about ‘being curious about working with chestnut wood for the first time’ etc. for a while. So it offered me a present.

I was alarmed by the sound of power saws in the darkness and went to have a look. One large branch had come down, hit a parking car and blocked the road. The fire brigade was clearing the street just as an emergence response. Next day people from another city department came to clear off the mess. I asked if I could have a piece and they said yes. There it was, exactly the right size, just sitting there on the street, waiting for me to take it.

Rinde k

I was so exited, but couldn’t start on it till later in the afternoon. First thing: get rid of the bark, which was a messy affair due to the fact that this piece of tree had a lot of dirt and moss on it and the bark had a strong affinity to the rest of the stem. Finally I could heave it up onto the work platform: fresh wood for the first time in years! I simply went crazy with the hatchet. I think I never started a sculpture with less hesitation or more speed. After coming out of that first frenzy I had to force myself to take a brake. This felt sooo good!

The next day was spent half in the workshop half at my computer watching DVDs. The latter was an absolute necessity both for my physical and mental sanity: give the tortured muscles in my arms and shoulders a rest and slip into another reality for a moment. On the physical side I still had to pay with considerable pain that evening and next morning. Otherwise my exhilaration was unspoilt.

Unfortunately I soon had to give up the hatchet and switch to gouge and mallet. The sculpture assumed its form within another two days without even working on it full time. So the fun part was over in less than a week! A few smaller corrections and then I had to leave it to dry. I tried once to use the rasp on the still wet wood. It produced a surface that felt like fur, raising the fibres from the stem instead of cutting them. For a moment I contemplated the possibility of a completely different finish: a sculpture that you can fondle like a furry little animal. The image made me brake down with laughter and dismiss the idea.
…but it had its appeal

shadow form 2 kOkay, I waited for it to dry and continued as usual, going for the smooth surface. The question is, what colour the wood will finally have. It changes between nearly white – as it was when fresh – and different shades of yellow and orange and light brown.

The mixture remained after the final sanding. But the sunlight coming through the windows might change it over time. I’m still curious!