From the King’s Broad Arrow to a restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Eastern White Pine trees have long been utilized for ship masts and bowsprits, and now a sculptor has created a fine modern-day example of the latter.
Architect Steve McHenry recently completed “Sandy Debris,” a masthead depicting a woman with her hand over her heart, for the exterior brick wall of Martingale Wharf restaurant at 99 Bow St. Weighing 500 pounds, the 9-foot figurehead is a tribute to the building’s namesake, an 1800s sailing ship that was blown into the building during a storm, according to local lore.
“We duplicated the history with the maiden, like what would have been on the ship,” says business owner Mark McNabb, who commissioned the sculpture.
The masthead isn’t an official project of Steve McHenry’s architecture firm. It’s a passion project he worked on in his spare time. In the 1970s, he made his living as a wood carver, and now those skills have come in handy. McHenry glued together 2-inch-thick white pine boards to create a large block of wood, and improvised carving tools from what he had on hand. It took him about a year to finish the sculpture, which gets its nickname from all the sanding required in the process.
The bowsprit represents a fun callback to one of the most famous stories in Eastern White Pine history. Tallest of the pine species in North America, Eastern White Pine was especially prized for shipmaking because it’s light, strong, decay-resistant and abundant. “Masting” became New England’s first major industry and Eastern White Pine was in high demand, especially by Great Britain.
Artist, designer and craftsman Ted Lott creates beautiful miniature timber frame structures with Eastern White Pine, using found vintage furniture and other objects as unexpected structural bases.
In a 2012 – 2016 series called “Habitation,” Lott built elaborate miniature timber frame houses around antiques like stools, piano benches and rocking chairs, leaving the frames open so viewers can peer inside and take in all of the details. More recently, his sculptures made of Eastern White Pine have taken on cylindrical shapes to function as lamp shades; some spring up between the halves of old suitcases.
A graduate of the Maine College of Art with a BFA in Woodworking and Furniture Design and recipient of an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Madison, Lott draws inspiration from the traditional skills and techniques that are at risk of being lost to industrial methods of construction and fabrication. His work revolves around “the history of wood in material culture and architecture,” he explains in his artist statement.
“Along with clothing, food and water, shelter is one of the basic requirements for the sustenance of human life. During most of our history shelters were made of local materials; timber, stone, hide, grass and mud provided protection from the elements. However, with the coming of the industrial revolution, locally sourced materials gave way to industrially produced ones, 2×4’s and nails replaced timbers and elaborate joinery.”
“Today, in America and all over the world, balloon frame construction is a primary means by which shelter is created from wood. While connoisseurs of woodworking have long lauded the skill, precision, and exacting craftsmanship required to create a post and beam structure, the majority of our homes, commercial buildings and other structures are made using the balloon frame method.”
Who doesn’t love a good Rube Goldberg machine? Named for the American cartoonist whose illustrations often depicted complex devices linked together to produce a domino effect, these comedic contraptions remain fascinating even in a world of digital distractions. People make incredible Rube Goldberg machines out of everything from kid’s toys and everyday household objects to industrial components most often seen in factories. But a sculptor named Larry Marley elevates the concept to a whole new level using almost nothing but wood.
The woodworking artist has produced a range of mechanical wonders, hand-carving all of the parts himself. That’s a heck of a feat, especially considering the precision required to make all those moving parts glide together smoothly to produce the end result! Even the gears are hand-made.
Marley typically starts with a series of sketches to produce his designs before completing a full-scale mechanical drawing. He even created a software application to determine all the dimensions of each piece before he cuts, assembles, turns, carves and finishes them.
While they’re beautiful to behold even while stationary, you’ve got to see these creations in action to really appreciate them. Check out more of Marley’s work on Instagram and Facebook.
Most of us don’t associate plywood with fine art, but an Oakland-based sculptor named Gabriel Schama is changing that with layered laser-cut creations of stunning intricacy. Some of his designs are architectural, others more organic, some even incorporating type.
The artist works with 1/8” pieces of plywood, stacking them on top of each other to create dimension and depth.
Schama starts with vector illustrations, sending each layer to his laser cutter (which he has nicknamed ‘Elsie’) and then hand-gluing and finishing each piece. On his Instagram, Schama details his creative process, showing how he draws each vector layer on a Cintiq tablet pad. He currently has several works up for sale on his website.
Sculptor Paul Stark is busy at work carving a life-sized canoe and its human inhabitants out of a trunk of Eastern White Pine. Buzzing away with a chainsaw, sanders and other tools, Stark is already attracting the attention of passersby with his sculpture, which will eventually be displayed in front of Fort William Henry in Lake George, New York to commemorate the region’s role in the French and Indian War.
A Lake George couple hired the Oregon-based sculptor to complete the project, and he’s been hard at work for eight hours a day since late May. It’s expected to be complete this month. Stark chose a trunk of Eastern White Pine from the Catskill Mountains because its length, girth and optimal sculptability made it ideal for the 24-foot-long work of art, according to the Post Star.
The section used for the sculpture was about 29 feet long and measured about 4 1/2 feet in diameter at its widest point. The length of wood weighed about 14,000 pounds before carving.
Stark said this has probably been the most difficult piece he has ever worked on because of its intricate detail, with six heads that are turned in different directions.
“I’ve never done a piece with human figures and interactions between characters this way,” he said.
A full-scale reproduction of the legendary Trojan Horse is underway in the sculpture department at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, with about 30 students and woodworking professionals collaborating on the project. So far, they’ve assembled more than 100 pieces of Eastern White Pine to construct the head and neck of the horse, and plan to finish the rest of the body based on historical accounts of what the horse looked like.
A collaboration between professors Rick and Laura Brown who also own the nonprofit educational Handshouse Studio) and the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C., the Trojan Horse Project began in the fall of 2015 and is expected to be under construction for the remainder of the year. The museum hopes to exhibit the horse outside its new location in 2018.
For anyone who could use a quick brush on their Ancient Greek history, the Trojan Horse was a huge wooden horse that hid soldiers inside. The Greeks built it after a fruitless 10-year siege against the city of Troy, and left the horse behind, pretending to sail away. The Trojans pulled the horse inside their city gates, and the forces were unleashed, destroying the city and ending the war.
“We have to infer things from the information we have,” says Phoebe Scott, a sculpture major at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in an interview with the Patriot Ledger. “To understand how large the horse was, we had to figure out how wide the fence they got the horse through was. So, to do that, we had to look at where the poles of the fence were.”
“We feel that the horse should be beautiful. It was inspiring to the Trojans, they believed that the gods had created it. It’s not something scary, a siege machine. We feel it has to be very beautiful, very sculptural.”
As soon as photos of the finished horse are released, we’ll provide an update on this post. We’re excited to see how it comes together!