Teigra started out as a piece of pine in the shape of a miniature railroad tie, 26 x 3 x 3″. I picked up four of these pieces of wood from a lumber yard scrap bin in East Hampton, New York, and used them to elevate items off the floor of my studio, which would often flood during hard rains. For years, this piece of wood had the humble job of simply supporting other equipment.
One day, as I was struggling to understand what Lorrie was trying to teach me about working with the grain of the wood, my eyes fell upon the end grain of this piece of pine, and I decided to experiment with carving it to see if I could get the grain to “go with” the forms I was carving.
To my surprise and delight, I found that the grain pattern of this wood is very strong, producing a tiger-stripe effect (hence, the name Teigra). The darker stripes are very hard, while the lighter are very soft, making this piece a real challenge to carve. But what fun would carving be if it wasn’t challenging?
You can see in these pictures that I’ve done more cleaning of the log, and have stood it up to get a feel for the shape. Because there are so many knots, I’ll need to plan carefully where the features — particularly the face — will be for this figure.
Studio shots of the finished piece, completed in 2012. It’s very different from the maquette I started with in 2005; it’s much more in harmony with the stone. Directly carving the piece permitted me to take the properties of the stone into consideration, rather than forcing my ideas onto it.
In 2011, I had begun working closely with my mentor, Lorrie Goulet, for about a year. I decided to ask for her advice.
When Lorrie looked at a picture of the piece, she was as dismayed as I was by the too-small head. She advised me to take the head off completely. So that’s what I did, using a point chisel around the neck where I want the head to break off. Instantly, The piece looked better to me. I discarded the maquette and, from then on, worked only with the stone, with what was in front of me. I began direct carving the piece from this point on.
Here, I’ve used a compressor to clear off the tool marks and further clarify the forms. I’ve begun to notice something that I don’t like — the proportion of the head seems too small!
The thing about carving — its subtractive nature — is that once material is carved away, it’s gone. If too much is taken off, it can’t be added back. I had no choice but to rethink this piece. I stopped working on it, and decided to wait for the time when I’d have enough experience to know what to do with it. I didn’t know then how long I would have to wait.