This site is a blog of my personal sculpting , please visit my professional website www.gracedesign.ie for Traditional Timber Frames, Garden Structures and Furniture.
This pergola surrounds a fire-pit in a private house in Kildare. It incorporates massive framing joints on very wide sections of European Larch which were harvested locally. Due to the radius of the curve the sections required were 14" wide and such trees are few and far between in Ireland so we were lucky to find them so close to home.
I love this particular joint; the stopped ,splayed scarf joint with wedges, because it's visually beautiful, incredibly strong and, once you get your head around how it works, quite simple to fashion. The project as a whole was satisfyingly challenging and the polished beam looks stunning perched atop the nicely laid stone walls.
You can see a video at the end of this post which shows the work in progress shots of this project.
Click here to view the video on YouTube.
The wood from which this bowl was cut was right on the edge of becoming a winter supply of firewood but a conscientious farmer decided that he would rather see something better become of it. Thankfully I happened to be in the vicinity at the time and true to his word, he furnished me with a trailer of this rare Irish wood. Much of what was cut however, was small and contained very little of that distinctive brown colour which we associate with walnut, what little there was being enclosed within the lighter, softer sapwood. The challenge as I saw it was to create a high value from something which seemed to contain very little.
Most people mistake what they see when they see this bowl and assume that two different pieces of wood were used. In fact it is one piece. It represents what I love about carving and is my statement of intent to rebel against the wooden bowls which can be found on the market today, most of which are turned on the lathe and therefore symmetrical, cylindrical and perfectly even no matter from which way you look at them. I believe that there is more charm, imagination and skill contained within my irregular bowl.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
This sycamore sculpture can be seen from opposing perspectives and the title is based on the quote from Oscar Wilde. From one perspective the figure expresses listlessness and melancholy, slouched with head dropped toward a sunken chest, eyes down.
The second figure is arched, erect with the head flung back and chest out, as one would be when gazing toward the heavens.
It can take some time before people see a second figure and it is usually the downcast one which they see first. I don't know what this suggests, perhaps it takes more work to focus on the higher aspects of life than it does to become immersed in the day to day. Which do you see or which image is stronger? Why do you think it is easier to identify the fearful, impotent figure?
The sculpture doesn't provide the answer to any such questions, other than to remind us that we have control over our mind and our realities, that perspective can shift in the blink of an eye. And hopefully, that we are choosing to look for something higher, something akin to the feeling of primordial peace that comes from standing under a blanket of stars on a clear night.
I wanted motion and flow from this piece which exhibits some of my favourite qualities found in ash. Mounted on oak.
Work on this piece coincided with the departure of a dear friend of mine and his family back to Australia, where he spent most of his early years, and thus became something of a catharsis during what was to be an emotionally charged time. We were bonded several years ago by the common interest of natural building and leaned on each other often for support and camaraderie when it came time to carry out works on our own homes.
A soldier on the front line of battle throws down his weapon and flees the terrible scene, horribly wounded but so strongly driven by thoughts of his family and self-preservation that he overcomes the pain to escape.
Another soldier sees his comrade betraying orders but knows in his heart that the order to fight is brutal and borne from a greed for power and wealth without care for the soldiers or their loved ones. And so he salutes the betrayal, perhaps wishing to be able to do the same but stayed by a bitter loyalty, and wishes his comrade a healthy escape to a place far away from the horrible carnage he must stay to witness.
What I wanted to capture most of all were the wounds, as seen in the sections of naturally rotted wood dotted around the sculpture, and the idea of motion, represented by the shape of a pair of legs with one foot planted and the other raised.
An interesting aspect of this piece for me is the direction from which you look to it; do you feel anger when you see the soldier has run away and holds no thoughts for upholding at all cost the morale which is essential for any outfit in conflict, or are you tempted to join him as he runs past you bearing horrific wounds which, should you sustain similar ones, could keep you from ever seeing your family again?
The lines between sculpture and furniture were obliterated for this piece which was commissioned for placement on the banks of the Liffey. The action of a dam upstream at Poulaphouca causes the river to rise and fall periodically and inspired the bench surface to do the same as it flows in a hairpin shape.The idea of flow was vital and is present in two distinct ways; the single upper piece is supported from one end only to take advantage of the strength and flexibility of the ash wood which flexes at the unsupported end when sat on, and the grain can be followed along either ‘leg’, around the raised curve at the head and down the other side. This grain structure allows for a tenon to be housed without losing strength and to give the illusion that the whole piece has been bent into shape, a practical impossibility for the dimensions involved.
A traditional frame is made up of a series of identical trusses connected by beams. This is an example of a single truss designed to incorporate an arch which is both decorative and functional.
I have long wanted to create something like this, a sculpted support to house our fundamental need for shelter. The ingrained curves and ripples are completely natural and work very well on the large sections of wood needed to build a timber frame. I know from experience of living in a framed house that many people will take the opportunity when inside one to touch the wood, to give it a rap or rub or a push. I love to see people touch my work, it is an element that I dedicate a lot of time to and with this piece I wanted it to be as tactile as possible.
This textured spiral has been carved from sycamore and retains hundreds of individual chisel marks along its length, set into a block of polished Irish walnut. The inspiration for this piece came from several places. One was my desire to create pieces which are unmistakably hand-carved but which possess similarities to work which has been turned on the lathe. For example, the blank from which this piece was carved was the same size and shape as that which would be used to turn a candle holder or sconce, a common woodturning project. What I wanted too, however, was an antithesis of woodturning, a shape which suggested at but did not contain symmetry in its form. The spiral has always attracted me as a map of human behaviour, a self-perpetuating and intriguing fractal pattern which for me transcends the iconic circle as a metaphor for the cycles of life. I love the elegant twist which to me hints at the idea of infinity. The dark walnut base is used to set off the plain grain of the sycamore and contains a number of interesting grain shapes of its own. The spiral appears to balance upon the block by means of an incorporated mortise and tenon and is delicate enough to spring back into place when gently pulled to one side.