I have been an artist for more than 40 years, yet I still find it difficult to describe my art. Put simply, I create boxes, bowls, small sculptures and wall hangings out of desert ironwood. I inlay sterling silver and turquoise into the surface of each piece. My inlays are most often images drawn from nature.
Like most artists, I have had to overcome a variety of challenges in order to create my art. The wood that I use in my work is found only in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Each year, I drive cross-country and spend long, hot days in the desert, searching out downed ironwood trees. (I never cut a living tree.) I rough-cut the trees in the desert, load the massive chunks onto my truck, and haul literally over a ton of ironwood to my studio in Mebane on each trip. The physical and logistical challenges of these annual treks to gather ironwood can be daunting.
Desert ironwood is exceptionally dense and heavy, in many ways more like stone than wood. It is nearly impossible to cut into ironwood using traditional woodworking tools and methods. But I was a mechanical engineer before becoming an artist, and I’ve always enjoyed solving technical problems. Still, it has taken me years to adapt tools and to refine the techniques that I use today to transform rough-cut desert ironwood into highly polished, elegant pieces of finished art.
On my journey as an artist, I have overcome many challenges, but I have also received many gifts. Physically, I am healthier than I ever was when I was an engineer. At 79 years of age, my hands are still rock steady. When I was in the business world, I was not a patient person; ironwood has taught me patience. I no longer receive a regular paycheck, but I have learned to trust that the Divine Intelligence of the Universe will reward me for my efforts (hopefully in time for me to pay my bills). I don’t have to punch a time clock, yet I still show up in my studio (almost) every day, and I work longer hours than I ever did before. I do this not because I have to, but because being in my studio and creating art continues to bring me joy.
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