Sunday, January 3, 2021

Cherry Bead and Cup with Stinging Nettle Cordage

I made this sculpture for the 27th Annual Juried Woodworking Exhibition at the Wharton Esherick Museum.  Wharton Esherick is one of my favorite wood sculptors and multi-media artists.  I had the pleasure of visiting Esherick's home outside of Philadelphia with my family back in 2014 and I wrote this post about it.  His work, lifestyle and attention to hand made details inspired me.   I decided to carve this sculpture for Wharton Esherick in his memory.  This Cherry cup and the Cosmic Seed were made with the intention of putting them into this upcoming multi-media show. 

Artist's Statement: This Cherry Wood Bead and Cup with Stinging Nettle Cordage was made using traditional techniques for natural materials that celebrate handcraft in a utilitarian and sculptural form.  Knife facets create texture that reflect light terrifically.  Each blade stroke can be felt and these low relief fingerprints are revealed by high angle light.  My work is in celebration of the morning light.  

Thousands of years ago the Sami people carved cups from birch burls.  The cups were carried on a short rope to allow for convenient travel of a life necessity. The cordage on this sculpture was made using only my hands.  First the stalks of the Stinging Nettle plant were collected from the forest. Then a process known as “breaking the back” of the stalk is implemented to separate the skin from the inner woody pith.  The skin is dried and then the fibers from the skin are rubbed together between your hands to change the consistency of the skin to a fibrous and nappy rough cord.  In this step you take time to remove all the hard bits which happen from the nodes on the stalk.  Finally a tight twist is put on the cord to start a two ply, twisted rope.  The result is a durable and strong cordage that has a wonderful light green pastel hue.  

The bead on the cordage is a torus, a model of an electro-magnetic field.  These fields surround all living things but are invisible to the human eye.  Craft offers a way to connect with nature through a relationship with a media.  The bead is a symbol of the natural frequency of life and the cordage and cup represent the connection to traditional hand craft.

All photos by Macky Swoboda

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