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Rock and Stone — The Sculpture of Sandra Matthews-Sarve

perfect pair birds stone carving sandra sarve

A Perfect Pair, stone carving by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

We see them every day.

Most of the time we walk by them, ignore them, overlook their existence. There are so many of them; they are so common, so ordinary, so completely lacking in what we consider value, that we accord them little attention or respect.

They’re rocks.

carved rock by road mother child sarve carving

Rock by the Road, mother and child, by Sandra Matthews-Sarve.

“We live on a rock. This planet is a rock,” says Sandra Matthews-Sarve, a stone carver from Walla Walla. “But most people take rocks for granted. They ignore rocks.”

Not so Matthews-Sarve. Finding new life for unexpected or undervalued items has always been an interest for the artist, who has made wall decorations out of old frying pans and kitchen decor from discarded blocks of wood.  She turned her attention to rocks four years ago when she became curious about engraved stones. She made a few, found she liked working with stone, and eventually transitioned from engraving to sculpting.

The Value of Rock

“Years ago, part of the reason I gravitated initially toward discarded items was because they were cheap materials,” Matthews-Sarve explains.

“It was a time when I was single and very poor, but loved to make things.

“But I also realized my attraction to discarded items was making something considered useless into something useful — and maybe even beautiful again.

“I enjoyed looking beyond the expected uses of objects and finding their other uses. Rocks are just another item most people consider useless and ignore or toss aside.”

petal soapstone carved rock pot sarve

Petal Soapstone Pot by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

In the world of rocks, there are rocks, and there are rocks. Because humans like to classify, rocks, like other items, find themselves being described as valuable and worthless, essential and unnecessary. Matthews-Sarve sees worth beyond the labels, and works with rocks across the spectrum.

Of course many of us, when we hear of stone carving, immediately think of marble, alabaster, soapstone — the cream of the rock world. They are, indeed, a delight with which to work, Matthews-Sarve affirms. She likes their hidden unpredictability. Cracks and fissures, small pieces of gravel and other material hidden in the stone come into play as she is carving, chiseling or angle grinding.

And while she may enter into a project with a particular result in mind, the stone itself joins in the decision process with its natural shape and buried blemishes.

“One must always be ready to change direction and sculpting plans when working with stone,” Matthews-Sarve says.

She Does Not Limit Herself

Normal carving stones like marble, alabaster, and soapstone, however, can be hard to find, she adds, so as an artist, she does not limit herself.

“It isn’t laying around on the ground. It has to be mined. So it can get expensive to buy it.

“But your average everyday rock is just waiting by the side of the road, or in a river, on a hillside, most anywhere.”

dancer carved stone garden ornament sarve

Dancer, carved stone garden ornament by Sandra Matthews-Sarve

Like its more valuable cousins, ordinary rock also contains hidden unpredictabilities, cracks and fissures, surprises that the sculptor discovers through trial, error, practice, and work. Matthews-Sarve and her husband, Kevin, enjoy exploring the regional roads of the nearby hills, discovering  and picking up rocks along the way. Generally, she creates garden ornaments from these finds.

“Most of the ordinary rocks are basalt — we have a lot of that around here. But some of them seem a little softer and muddier than basalt, and I’m not sure what they are. So I just call them Blue Mountain Roadside Rocks.”

Matthews-Sarve’s studio is outside, alternating between her garage and driveway. Angle grinding, chisel and hammering are driveway projects. Work done with a dremel, file, riffler, and rasp locates itself in the garage or under a canopy. In bad weather, she brings small pieces, like refrigerator magnets, into the kitchen. Projects range from large garden sculptures to tiny little plant pots, and each spends time in her hands and under her eye. The challenge, and reward, lie in finding and shaping beauty, teasing it from the raw, often stubbornly difficult, materials, whether those materials are deemed “valuable” or not.

Intrinsic Value

It’s not a difficult metaphorical jump from rocks to other things, and from other things to people. Matthews-Sarve is especially conscious of this, having worked with and around a disability much of her life. She knows from experience that value judgments are just that, and true understanding takes a willingness to look beyond the surface to the depth beneath. And that’s why she’s willing to look.

“I enjoy making art out of beautiful stone, but I also enjoy making art out of common roadside rocks.

“Most things can be useful or beautiful.

“Sometimes we just need to look beyond the expected uses, and beyond the normal ideas of beauty.”

Wenaha GallerySandra Matthews-Sarve is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 26 through February 22, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

rainbow trout fish carved wooden sculpture art tom schirm

Fish Tales: Wooden Sculptures by Tom Schirm

When Tom Schirm tells a fish story, it’s not your usual Big One That Got Away tale.

Schirm, a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties, has spent 35 years of his professional career protecting fish and wildlife. For this reason, many of his fish stories have to do with poachers. Lately, however, an increasing number of his tales have to do with the more pleasant topic of woodcarving. Schirm uses his knowledge of fish, their habitat, and their unique markings, and turns this into sculpture.

golden trout fish wooden sculpture tom schirm

Golden Trout, wooden fish sculpture by Walla Walla artist Tom Schirm.

It all started in the mid-1990s when Schirm was working as a game warden in Wyoming.

Fishing for a Hobby

“A girlfriend asked if there was anything I would like to do as a hobby besides hunt and fish. Since I chased poachers, and dealt with hunting and fishing in my job all the time, she thought some other hobby might be good.”

So . . . Schirm decided to carve fish. He started with a book, bought by the girlfriend, by Bob Berry, considered the father of the fish carving art form.

“I played around with it for many years, but started to get serious about improving and carving more compositions in 2008,” the Dayton artist says.

Using both hand and power tools, Schirm works with exotic sounding woods like tupelo, jelutong, or basswood. Prized for their softness for carving, they are also prone to splintering. This adds to the challenge and beauty of the final work, Schirm says.

Scraps Schirm converts into rocks and other habitat components. The finished markings – a detail to which Schirm pays assiduous attention – he hand paints and airbrushes in acrylic paint.

Depending upon the sculpture size, each lifesize fish takes anywhere from 60 to 200 intense, careful, concentrated hours. Working primarily on commission, Schirm has sold works to collectors throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as Wyoming and Iowa.

Rescuing a Prized Catch

“I remember one buyer who came to me with a damaged taxidermy mount of a big Smallmouth Bass his father had caught many years before,” Schirm says.

“Most of the fins were broken or missing, and his father had thrown it away.

“He took it from the garbage and asked if I could replicate it in wood, and do a composition including the lure his father had caught it with.

“It was about a 7-pound Smallmouth Bass. I broke two saw blades and nearly burned up my band saw cutting such a thick fish shape out of the block of wood.

“However, it turned out well, and his father was surprised and happy.”

white sturgeon fish wooden sculpture tom schirm

White Sturgeon, wooden fish sculpture by Walla Walla artist Tom Schirm

Five years ago, Schirm tested the waters, so to speak, of woodcarving competitions, and the result has been one to please both fisherman and artist. At his very first competition, the Artistry in Wood Show in Kennewick, Schirm walked away with First Place in Class, Best of Division, and the People’s Choice Award.

Shortly thereafter he entered national shows. In 2017 at the World Fish Carving Championships, sponsored by the leading taxidermy journal, Breakthrough Magazine, he garnered first, second, and third place prizes. This spring at the same competition, Schirm’s Westslope Cutthroat Trout took the Open (Top Level) Decorative Lifesize, Third in the World Award.

Westslope cutthroat trout sculpture tom schirm

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout wooden fish sculpture, winner of multiple national awards, by Tom Schirm

“One Special Fish”

The prizes for the Westslope Cutthroat Trout are especially meaningful because of another fish story in Schirm’s repertoire. Created for a colleague, the sculpture was meant for the colleague’s wife who had always wanted such an artwork, but unexpectedly passed away before it could be completed. Schirm borrowed the piece back for the 2018 and 2019 competitions.

“That’s one special fish,” the sculpture’s owner says.

Over the years, Schirm has carved 103 fish, and he is nowhere near being done – neither with the carving nor the entering of competitions. His next major goal is to win Judge’s Choice and Best of Show at a future World Fish Carving Championship.

But his constant goal, with each and every composition, is to re-create a snapshot in time of the fish within its natural environment.

“I want to show the beauty of nature and the complexity of creation,” Schirm says.

“My goal is to create the finest examples of fish sculptures I can.

“I enjoy it when someone thinks a composition is a real fish, or when a customer smiles with happiness when they receive their fish sculpture.”

Those are fish stories well worth telling.

Wenaha GalleryTom Schirm is the Featured Art Event from Monday, June 17, through Saturday, July 13 at Wenaha Gallery.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

 

Jerry Poindexter - Bird Carvings

Jerry Poindexter – Bird Carvings

Jerry Poindexter is a master carver — he specializes in the intricate detailed birds around the area. Poindexter’s art will be on display from June 18, 2018 through July 14, 2018. These birds make the perfect gift, or home decor!

To view and purchase Jerry Poindexter’s art, please click here

two parakeets wood carving sculpture tupelo jerry poindexter

Carving Birds — The Creative Wings of Jerry Poindexter

two parakeets wood carving sculpture tupelo jerry poindexter

Two Parakeets, original bird carving in Tupelo wood by Spokane artist Jerry Poindexter

When it comes to carving birds, accuracy matters — a lot. Size, shape, color, the creature’s unique attributes — achieving these elements takes a blend of artistic skill and the scientific mind, the willingness to observe, take measurements, record data, and check and recheck the facts. And that’s before the very first cut is made on the wood.

bird carving tupelo wood sculpture jerry poindexter

Bird carving by Jerry Poindexter, woodworker artist from Spokane, WA

For artist Jerry Poindexter, who has been carving birds for more than 20 years, the success of the final sculpture depends upon this preliminary research, and before he embarks upon a project, he gets his hands on some study skins: actual birds, many killed by hitting windows or being hit by cars, dried and preserved, sometimes stuffed with cotton but other times not. Generally not mounted, the skins are stored in trays at places such as Eastern Washington University in Cheney, where Poindexter has spent hours drawing, measuring, and drafting patterns for carving.

After nine years, Poindexter  compiled 50 of these measured drawings, complete with coloration notes, into two books, Songbirds I and Songbirds II.

Drafting Patterns for Carving Birds

“The thought of publishing the books started in 2002 when I carved my first bird for the Ward’s World Championships in Ocean City, Maryland,” the Spokane woodcarver says. “It was after seeing the way people were carving their birds, some of which were too big, and others with the color not even close to the actual bird.

quail tupelo wood carving sculpture Jerry Poindexter

Quail wood carving in Tupelo Wood by woodcarver artist Jerry Poindexter of Spokane, WA

“Carvers had been asking me for my measured drawings at classes that I taught, and at the time I was giving them away.”

Poindexter attracted the eye of the carving world early on, when he entered a bird that no one had seen before at Ward’s, an international event which focuses exclusively on bird carvings.

“The bird was a Varied Thrush, which is well known in the West, but not in the East,” Poindexter says. “I did a half size and was awarded third in the world.” He was also approached by Wildfowl Carving Magazine, which took him on as a regular columnist addressing paint notes and bird measurements.

Judging Carvings as Well as Creating Them

For many years Poindexter has also served as judge at various shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, and is both a regular juror and contributor at the Columbia Flyway Wildlife Show in Vancouver, which attracts fish, wildlife, and bird carvers from throughout the Western United States and Canada. He has sold work to private collectors in Canada, Germany, Arizona, Kansas, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

snowy white owl bird carving tupelo wood sculpture jerry poindexter

Snowy White Owl wood carving in tupelo by woodcarver artist Jerry Poindexter of Spokane, WA

One commission he did for a collector is especially memorable. At a carving show, a man asked how much Poindexter would charge for carving a half-size barn own. Poindexter quoted a price, the man nodded, and walked away. Well, that’s that, Poindexter thought.

“One day, there’s a knock on the studio door, and here was the man holding a piece of firewood. He wanted to have the owl placed on the wood so that he could rotate the owl for different presentations.”

Before leaving, the man pointed to a hole in the firewood and said that he wanted to see a mouse coming out that hole, and the owl appearing to see it. Poindexter agreed, mentally running over the added complexity and difficulty that this would add to the piece.

“When he arrived to pay and said, ‘How much?’ I told him that the owl was now free, but the cost of the mouse would be the original cost we had discussed.”

parrot wood carving tupelo sculpture jerry poindexter

Parrot wood carving from tupelo wood by artist Jerry Poindexter of Spokane, WA

The man not only agreed to the price, but commissioned a second piece.

Carving for Work and Pleasure

Carving started for Poindexter as a hobby, something to do after retirement, and in his early years he created Santas, bears, deer, fish, and even Nativity scenes, but once he discovered birds, he knew he had found his niche. It’s the motion, the texture, the variety and the coloration that draws him to  the world of birds, and it is a place well worth being. There are so many birds, so many projects, that he never runs out of something to create.

“If I kept a count of the number of birds I’ve carved, or the amount of time I’ve spent carving — something I did once and will never do again — I might have quit.

“But carving for yourself is pleasure.”

Purchase Jerry Poindexter’s art online at this link.

 

Wenaha Gallery

Jerry Poindexter is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, June 18, 2018, through Saturday, July 14, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

A Connoisseur of Trees and Wood — the Hand-Carved Sculpture of Jordan Henderson

Carved goat in cherry wood by Wenaha Gallery artist Jordan Henderson

Goat in Cherry Wood by Wenaha Artist Jordan Henderson.

Sustainability: it’s contemporary, fashionable, sensible, and beautiful, and for woodcarver Jordan Henderson of JDC Woodcarving, there is an art to doing it right.

“I source all of my wood locally,” the Dayton, WA artist explains, “People contact me regularly to let me know that a tree has blown down, and am I interested in the wood? Sometimes they drive up — in the night — and leave the wood by the studio. It’s an unusual, but pleasant, surprise in the morning, and most of the mystery is figuring out who brought the wood.

Carved wood sculpture portrait in cottonwood by wenaha gallery artist Jordan Henderson

Portrait in Cottonwood, by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jordan Henderson.

“I have acquired some really unusual pieces for sculpture this way — my favorite is locust, but I’ve worked with lilac, cherry, walnut, oak, white pine. We are fortunate to live in an area with a lot of trees.”

From a block of wood, Jordan uses hand and power tools to tease out the animal, or the plant, or Viking warrior, that is hidden there, waiting for him to create it into existence. The son of Dayton painter Steve Henderson, Jordan learned to draw as a child, and he uses this skill extensively in making preliminary sketches for each piece.

“I study the subject from all sides and perspectives before actually starting to carve,” Henderson explains. “This allows me to make bold, clear shapes and cuts, which I believe are absolutely essential, because hesitant shapes and cuts in carving look terrible.

“Wood is a very unforgiving medium,” he continues. “If you make a serious mistake your carving is ruined. The time spent on preliminaries is well worth it if it means that you don’t have to  throw out a carving that is three-quarters done.”

That time spent on preliminaries shows: Henderson’s carvings are free flowing yet accurate in detail, occasionally whimsical yet respectful of their subject: the trees curve as if dancing,  the chicken exudes nobility somehow, the bust of an Arikira Indian — based on a photo by Edward Curtis — stares forward with dignity and pride. Each piece expresses the individuality of the subject.

Carved wood sculpture rockfish by wenaha gallery artist Jordan Henderson

Rockfish, by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jordan Henderson.

Because of the dust inherent to carving from wood, Henderson prefers to work outside, which is pleasant in the summer months, he observes. However, due to his seasonal day job — growing and marketing organic produce for his business, Deer Pond Gardens — Henderson spends the warmer months with a shovel in his hand, as opposed to a chisel. Quite fortunately, since he is a man who wears shorts in January, he has no problem working outside when the temperature is more . . . brisk, shall we say.

carved wooden sculpture the gardener by wenaha gallery artist Jordan Henderson

The Gardener, by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jordan Henderson.

“It’s still pleasant,” Henderson comments in his direct, yet soft spoken way. “And though in the summer — when it would be even more pleasant to be carving outside — I’m not able to devote as much time to it, I get many ideas for the winter.

“And in the winter, it’s very enjoyable, sitting by a woodstove, to do the preliminary sketches for sculptures by the fire. Or poring through seed catalogs. The two facets — gardening and carving — work well together.”

It’s back to that sustainability again — using wood that many people  would burn, to celebrate the world of wildlife, domestic animals, trees, fish, and — quite appropriately —  a gardener, leaning on a shovel.

“My goal is to create a clear and aesthetically pleasing rendition of the subject, with the aim to cause viewers to also see the beauty of these subjects,” Henderson says.

“The real benefit of wood is its inherent beauty: a woodcarving is not just a way of creating a form, it is also a way to show off the beauty of the wood it is carved from. That’s why it’s so important to have many different types of wood from which to choose, and thanks to the people who keep me in mind when they’re cutting wood, I’ve got that.”

Jordan Henderson  is the featured Art Event Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery, July 3 through July 26, 2014. Come see the exhibit at the gallery’s downtown Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.  Wenaha Gallery

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

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