As a part of the new website, it was suggested that I start doing blogs about my work, how it came about, and things that arise as I continue to create. I’ve never done a blog before, so we’ll see how it turns out! Bear with me while I stumble through the process.
THE FIRST OF MANY
Having lived in Southern California for quite a few years, I had seen different art pieces done with palm fronds. Mostly painting or pyrography of animal faces or tikis, with some even having other items attached. But the natural shape always seemed to beg for embellishment.
The catalyst for me to finally try to do something with them was when I saw a frond that had been carved into a skull of sorts hanging in a good friend’s shop. It was such a strangely well fit design for the natural shape, and I was mesmerized. He didn’t know the name of original artist, and I wasn’t able to find any more pictures or info on anything that had been done as intricate. It continued to stay on my mind as things do when I get an idea. I had to try for myself!
Now, up to this point, my experience with wood shaping was limited to construction, making hammer handles with my dad as a kid, and some whittling with a knife – also as a kid. I never really had much interest in wood work, and felt that it was too dated or obsolete in the cold metal industrial world I was trying to shape for myself.
Starting into the process of carving the first frond, I had no tools or bits that were fit for such a task, and I had no idea of what to even look for or try. With that being said, I took a trip down to Harbor Freight and looked through what they had. I didn’t have any concept of how wrong the tools and accessories were that I was going to try, because in that moment, I thought I had cracked it.
I was absolutely confident that within an hour of my arrival home with this new plastic bag of treasures, I would be looking at a well polished art piece that could rival anything done before, or ever again.
“Oh boy was I wrong!”
The tools I was so falsely confident in were a 1/4″ electric rotary tool (way too big to hold onto with one hand and get any sort of detail from), matched with a pack of 1/4″ course wood burrs. The speed of the rotary tool burned up and dulled the burrs within minutes, because the outer layer of the fronds in incredibly hard.
I pushed through and was able to get a design finished, but it was hours later. The process was so much harder, and took so much longer than I could have even imagined. But alas, I was looking at a piece that was at least somewhat recognizable as a skull-type thing, but wanted to get it a little more detailed.
For reasons I can’t explain, it didn’t even occur to me to airbrush these pieces until years later. I guess I was trying to be nostalgic or true-to-form, but I decided burning them was going to be the best way to add dimension and improve on design.
I found out very quickly that fire is really hard to control on wood, especially on something that has such a difference in textures from the outside in. The outer layers are very hard and slick, with the inside being fibrous and pulpy – similar to a hard cork with thousands of tiny bamboo sticks shooting through it.
With a little time and frustration, I finished the first piece. I was happy with the result, but wasn’t sure if I’d be doing another. As I hung the piece on my living room wall with some safety wire attached to the back of the piece with a drywall screw, I stepped back to admire my latest creation. All my excitement had been short lived though, as I realized the downfall of burning wood as a finish… there were black charcoal smudges all over the flat white walls surrounding the piece I just hung. My girlfriend (at the time) was going to be pissed.