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As an artist I am fascinated by the shape and color of natural things. For as long as I can remember I have gathered rocks, twigs, acorns, shells and other organic bits offered by Mother Nature. I've pressed flowers, woven baskets, thrown clay and manipulated natural elements into art for many years. One element I find particularly stunning is Driftwood. Hidden beneath the crusty shell of driftwood is an often-overlooked wealth of beauty; a pure treasure that must be unearthed to truly be appreciated. I've spent hours on the shores of the Hudson River from Manhattan to Albany in search of driftwood. The Hudson River has played a major role in the history of America. Historic battles have been fought along its shore, shipwrecks from 400 years ago lay beneath its waters. The Vanderbilts and Roosevelts built mansions during the Golden Age on cliffs high above the river. To this day huge barges carry cargo from the North down to the Atlantic ocean. Hundreds of years of activity along the Hudson has deposited treasures along the water edge. My imagination runs wild thinking about the journey each piece has made. It takes an artist's eye to find these treasures and an artist's skill to bring out their greatness. Each piece of driftwood starts out rough and grey. It is only after hours and hours of sanding and burnishing that the true beauty of the piece begins to take shape. The finish on my pieces are achieved without any stain or varnish. After sanding with multiple grits the smooth surface is "sealed" using a piece of bone or smooth rock. The constant rubbing of the wood brings out its natural colors and creates a shiny surface. Once the surface is silky smooth a thin layer of wax or oil is applied to preserve the wood. These sculptures are meant to be touched and loved! Caressing them is part of the artistic experience. For this reason the pieces are not permanently mounted. Additionally the beauty of each piece lays on all sides, stands are made to hold the piece in a variety of ways. It is recommended that you occasionally rotate the piece for a change of aesthetic. Lastly, all pieces are one of a kind, you will never find another like the one that is yours.

Hudson River Driftwood raw wood for making sculpture found objects

The Process: Step 1

Search and Rescue

Gather, gather and gather some more. Joyfully, I've spent many hours along the shore of the Hudson River "rescuing" driftwood. Not every piece has the potential to become art, it takes a lot of searching to find the right piece.

Step 2

Sand and Deliver

Where you start and where you end never look the same. Hours of sanding and shaping reveal the true beauty of each piece. The driftwood will let you know when it's time to stop.

Driftwood Hudson River
Drift wood sculpture

Step 3

Rub and Shine

Rub, rub and rub some more. Once the piece has taken shape it's time to bring out its' natural luster. I shine the wood with a technique called barnishing. I use a piece of bone or a smooth rock to squish the fibers down to create a natural shine. 

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