In the late 60's a fist-sized piece of driftwood bumped into my leg.
I was wading knee-deep, dressed in shorts and sneakers, out fly fishing for a couple of days in the Kananaskis, in the Alberta wilderness. I had driven out from Montreal, where I was living post university, to visit my Mom and Dad who still lived in the Crowsnest Pass. I picked it up to get a better look. It was an eight by four-inch broken root that had been drifting in the river for a few years.
It had the turn of a shoulder with one arm and a hand tucked beneath a could-be chin. There was a curve of a back-into-buttocks. It just needed a bit of trimming-up to take the shape I thought it should. I slipped it into my fishing basket; perfectly empty of the fish I hadn’t caught. When we got back to the house in Bellevue, I put it up on the window ledge to dry.
A few days on, the family were out in the yard, enjoying the day. It was hot. My dad had a work bench with a vise in basement. It was always cool down there. I retrieved the driftwood, clicked on the basement light and headed downstairs. My dad spent hours sharpening his chisels; lined up according to size on the peg board. Years ago he had shown me how to use them properly and without cutting myself. The driftwood was no match for the sharp edge of the cold steel. In no time, my find was what I imagined. I sanded it up and put on a coat of varnish from the tin on the shelf. I slipped the chisels back in their slots, swept the shavings into the bin, and made sure the lid was tight on the varnish. A place for everything and everything in its place.
I went out through the basement door and joined the family. I never mentioned what I had been up to. It never dawned on me to show them my creation or ask them what they thought of it. At the end of our stay I slipped it into my travel bag and brought it back with me to Montreal. I still have it around somewhere; a bit chewed by the family dog.
That driftwood sculpture and its quiet creation―its transformation into my vision of its soul―is the essence of my work.
I use the tools at hand and strive to be expert in their use.
I use readily available medium; I find on my own.
I work in the space I’m in; in the time I steal from my necessary life.