I had roughed out the owl’s form in green wood and then waited months for the material to dry. Why?
Dry wood can take detail and reach a fine finish. It can also be brought indoors without fear of distortion or cracking. So I returned to the open air to refine the owl form.
Green wood is pliable and horse chestnut is no exception. It had taken the form I marked out for it and had dried without much distortion. This drier, more seasoned wood is harder and more resilient – it pushes back. This is a good thing, especially when working with both power- and hand-tools. The result is less fibrous and the work begins to take on a recognisable shape.
By this stage of the process, I’m really conscious of the time already taken. A slip through tiredness or lack of care would be disastrous. That thought creates pressure, but I meet it with a counter-thought: this is only a roughly formed lump of wood until it is completely finished. At that point it becomes a sculpture, but not until then.
I had pictured the owl sculpture with a smooth, slightly glossy finish. This requires sanding and a ruthless eye for flaws and marks. Finishing is a truly laborious act – a meditation on perfection. It takes time – especially on details in the work, all of which must be finished by hand.
The process of making is long, but enjoyable. And I hope you’ll agree, the result is worth it.