Quite some time ago now I took part in the J.B.Blunk Artist’s Residency Programme in Northern California.
This is where J.B. Blunk, an artist crafting furniture and large scale installations, set up his home and studio in the early 60s. I stayed in this beautiful home for three months, located in a National Reserve and surrounded by incredibly lush nature. A short walk took me up to the mountain ridge, from where I could see the wild beaches of the Pacific Ocean and beyond. One time, I was woken up as if by magic to spot the breathtaking sunrise across
The house itself was very inspirational and having J.B. Blunk’s furniture and sculptures surrounding me as I worked made it even more so. I had landed in California without any tools, ready to dive into a new adventure creating some work far off my usual track. I spent some time slowing down, walking around and taking in the nature and the spirit of the place to find inspiration before starting anything. J.B. Blunk was a master of the chainsaw, and it was almost impossible for me not to go down the route of trying out the tool that made his work so unique.
I had come from a place with a climate very different to that of Northern California and I remember the day when I stopped the car, got out and realised that the scale of nature here was very different to what I was used to: the trees were just a lot bigger. From afar or without paying much attention it might appear to be the same, but when I got out of the car in the wilderness, trying to get my arms around a tree, it was impossible. It seemed as if everything was scaled up by 150%.
Trees grew a lot faster and larger than they did in my native Germany given the milder winters and not-too-dry summers, allowing them to grow year-round and making timber a big resource for the area as a result. After some searching I found places where I could find small, beautiful pieces and offcuts of local trees that I had not been working with before: Redwood, Cypress, Claro Walnut, American Elm, Bay Laurel and Red Eucalyptus, to name a few.
I was very happy about my findings and started working with the chainsaw to get some experience. Scary at first, I soon started to like the speed at which I could cut through rather big chunks of timber. Precision came with enough practice, too. Once everything had fallen into place I was cutting my wooden findings to create small sculptures designed simply for their beauty, which made me
After having them around and looking at them for a few days I decided to finish them off with a sand to bring out the grain and the beauty of the wood even more. The final touches were the butterfly joints I did by hand, creating a contrast to the chainsaw work that I had started with.
The outcome of all this were 10 sculptures, each very distinctive in their shape, colour, detailing and grade of polishing. Some were left almost like I found them, others brought up in their appearance after working with them. After oiling, the different timbers really took on their own colour and the grain was much more visible, with the different timbers all showing their unique characteristics. The dried wood also behaved very differently to the green wood in its handling.
From the offcuts I made a headboard for a bed that stayed in the house. A big thank you to Mariah Nelson and the J.B. Blunk Estate working in collaboration with the Lucid Arts Foundation, and of course to the man himsel, for the experience that I was able to gain and the three months in the ‘woods’ of Point Reyes National Seashore Estate.
Some of the California pieces are available for purchase in the shop.