Seaside Walkabout Leafipede







When I go deeply enough into a series, it often ends up spawning sub-series. And so it is that the Leafipedes have formed a family of their own within the Spiritus Naturalis collection.


While it has this double-belonging, Seaside Walkabout also stands apart in that it’s the first in this body of work to be sculptural furniture. It’s a table, unlike its siblings here and here, for both of which I purposefully tilted the leaf form and preoccupied it with other elements, making them decidedly not-tables.  

What caused the the shift? The Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, amid a renovation of their office, requesting something lovelier than the stodgy old counter.


This being an island, and the shoreline steps away, it was natural to give it an oceanic gist. The cedar floating leaf top with its cool, speckled fiber surface suggests shallow water lapping up on a shore. The underside is a warmer sand tone, like a beach below the tide.  










The madrona branch legs with their bulbous tops remind me of bull whip kelp. The bands of color shift cooler, as if they’re descending into the depths. A brass mesh veil hangs below, like a keel sailing through kelp.


Seaside Walkabout is 60" long, 36" high.

Fiddlehead Sough Usher








Stop in the woods on a windy day, become still inside, and the sough—the rushing sound of wind blowing through trees—becomes a chaotic symphony. This nature spirit guides the sough, makes music of it whether or not anyone is there to listen.

At 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, it’s the largest and most complex so far in the Spiritus Naturalis series.



Fiddlehead Sough Usher is also the first wall piece and the first to contain a found object—the fiddle.

Which was stripped down and taken in a more organic direction: the tuning pegs became leaves; the strings are wild and fluid; the straight bow was replaced with a curving tendril; its surface looks like translucent leaves in a tree canopy.





The paper skin of the trunk has earthier coloration, while the branches flowing down and away have a feeling of wind and sky. The tendrils—the sound element—are more densely colored, punctuated and rhythmic.


A series of series


Spiritus Naturalis series: Surf Sylph


I love working in series. Each is an opportunity to evolve with a creative direction over an indeterminate span of time. And for commissioned works, I can reapproach earlier explorative directions with a fresh eye and the bounty of what I've gleaned in the meantime.

The current series is Spiritus Naturalis, in which I'm composing Madrona branches, copper, and pigmented flax fiber to create gestural nature spirits. I'm especially drawn to working with forms that are in fact still, but seem in motion in the viewer's perception.

Lumenpear series: Aspearsa




Most recently, I worked with a related pair of light-emitting series. With Lumenpear, I combined the evocative pear form with other far-flung elements. Aspearsa, for example, embodies both a pear and a garden snail, with the garden abstractly reflected in its surface.


Skyhull series: Sunflitten



With the same combination of copper armature and flax fiber surface, Skyhull envisions boat forms with disparate elements. Sunflitten imagines a hybrid of boat hull and sunflower.


Skyhouse series: Gatekeeper







For a few years I lived in Bali, where I couldn't make my beloved flax paper. There, I reimagined bird cages with rice paper, pigments and copper, converting them from bird prisons to joyous architectural creatures with the Skyhouse series.

A landscape screen




My artwork usually has me inviting nature indoors, into human spaces. I’ve been wanting to switch it up, bring its architecture, its lines and forms out into more natural landscapes.

I’ve worked with location-specific installations of this sort, but I wanted to play with the copper frame and cedar slats as an independent object: a freestanding, movable thing. A thick slab of live-edge fir and solid footings let it be mobile, but with a sense of gravitas.

For me, the stoutness of the pipe frame has a masculine feel, especially with the fittings, yet its flow engages the feminine. The relative rigidity of the copper holds the suppleness of the slender cedar woven in. 

The flowing copper curves are very much related to the paper-skinned copper tendrils of the Spiritus Naturalis pieces. Here, though, their metallic nature is skinned with the patina of exposure to the elements.








The slats are shaped like tapered leaves, splaying out in opposites at the top. Brass and copper cloth leaf forms seem to spill out the front.


About 8 feet long x 87 inches high.

Spiritus Naturalis series: Winter Sky Leafelope












Winter Sky Leafelope is the second piece in the Spiritus Naturalis series with a floating, leaf-shaped landscape.  

Here the plane evokes sky with a pair of leaves comprised of numerous leaf-shaped clouds. Besides its antelope-like stance, there's an antler piercing the clouds, fading to lighter, bonier tones. 




The legs are of earthier, richer colors, with watery tendrils coursing through, cycling the sense of movement back up into the tree-like antler.

Spiritus Naturalis series: Cloud Garden Leafipede






This is Cloud Garden Leafipede, the first of the Spiritus Naturalis series to embody a landscape floating in midair.


All of the earlier pieces in this series have tendrils intertwining with madrona branch forms, but in this one the tendrils are separate, ending in leaf-like clouds that cast shadows on the mobile garden/leaf plane.






Cloud Garden Leafipede is 42"L x 26"H


A backlit 4' x 4' sheet of paper drying

I'd begun mentioning to folks that I was looking for some Madrona branches when a buddy said he'd seen some in a place accessible only by boat. He also had a boat with a small motor and a dinghy to tow behind. We ventured out to the nearest landing, where the motor promptly failed. Fortunately, he'd brought oars, and I got to feel with every row on the 3-mile round trip how much I wanted this exquisite stockpile.


The new work also needed a fresh supply of paper: almost tissue-paper thin, with lots of chromatic variation within each piece. I've been gathering visual impressions of nature since I was a kid.



Materials, tools, and a happy place to idea of heaven on earth.

Walk in the Wild

Sometimes earlier phases, places and objects intersect with the present, as if a journey has come full round—though not as much in a circle as a spiral, like a comet passing near enough to see, yet offset by the gravitational pull of time and change.

Late last year I let go of a piece I’d created while in grad school in 1999. I’d loved this family of standing branches across two decades, numerous moves, and bouts of living overseas.

It was an artwork that readily came to mind when I recalled from time to time one of the professors saying that the program was really about getting down to the deeper roots of our work, and that if we were successful, it would open up avenues of exploration we could draw from for the rest of our lives.

Familial (1999)
There was an ideal space for it in a gorgeous home here on Orcas Island. That, and knowing I could visit, eased the decision to release it. Getting Familial ready for delivery and installing it reawakened the 20-year old interest in sculpting free-standing branch forms. I found myself with not only all those years of creative exploration and experience with which to refresh the approach, but the most gorgeous Madrona branches within reach.

I’d planned to open up some of my processes and techniques in a sabbatical over the winter, so the prospect of playing out at last a long-fallow direction with so much more experience, and in ultra fresh ways was tantalizing indeed.
One big shift has been in thinking anew about the surfaces. When I made Familial, I was emerging from a focus on making furniture finished with deep layers of natural oil and earth pigment glazes.

Another interest at the time was paper-making, so all these years later, it’s been immensely satisfying to turn to it as well for a kind of skin on the emerging branch forms. I've made vibrant, multi-colored flax fiber paper, similar to what I was making for the  Lumenpear and SkyHull series. 

With this new, as-yet-unnamed series, I’m envisioning these human-scale branch forms having a range of relationships with light: being a continuation of the work in light-emitting sculpture, or perhaps simply reveling in whatever light falls upon or passes through parts of them, depending on what each piece calls for. 
Update: The series that spilled out of this work is here.

At the outset, I intended for this first one to be simply a branch form like a single one of the elements in Familial. Yet the space between its legs evoked a skirt-like form responding to their motion, adding to the sense of the piece being alive, frolicking in the sensuality of nature.
The “wild” aspect of its name refers to its not just walking in untamed nature, but being it: as if nature is dancing in itself. Where one would anticipate a head, there’s a crescent moon, as if the dreamy feminine is at the helm.
Walk in the Wild is about 6' tall.

A sibling screen

The first screen.

In an earlier post, I shared the remaking of a landscape screen on the Oregon coast. 

This first one was purposefully more sedate, as its role was to underscore the expansive view—to empathize with it, but not distract from it.

Winter view of the new home next door.

Fast-forward five years, a new house was built right off the corner of this exquisite home, obliterating its intimacy and privacy. This development called for a sibling screen to be a veil between.

With trees and lush growth all around, this one could be more wild and playful. And the large structure behind suggested it be more attention-seeking as well. The point wasn’t to hide the house, but to break up the mutual sight lines, while giving the eyes something besides the house to focus on. 

That it could and should be visually busier played along nicely with the need to reduce the see-through inherent in the woven slat design. When viewed straight on, the slats block the view readily. But as you move to the side, you increasingly see between the bowing slats. This wasn’t a concern with the first screen.

Some additional material that would obscure from the more oblique view was needed with this one as the angle of view stretching across the terrace, living room and master bedroom is very wide.

Screening is ideal, since it has the opposite effect of the slats: the view is best when looking straight through it, becoming more opaque as you view through it more obliquely. So in combination, the slats and the screening compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

This provided an opportunity to play with some abstract shapes floating down the length, like sea creatures in the streaming currents suggested by the serpentine copper lines. The bowed areas that allowed the most see-through were happily most available for inserting the large screen forms.

A concern of the owner was that we’d be introducing something that could make this area feel hemmed-in. With that in mind, I made the top of the screen lean outward at the top, as if the space is pouring out into sky. 

And where the screen begins on the half-wall, it’s away from the building and starts out lightly with just the copper and screen, leaving an opening to the landscape in that corner. 

A more sensory depiction, with the ever-present sound of the ocean: 

The Lumenwave installed (2018)

It’s in these little buildings that my sculpting and architectural work really come together.

Maybe it’s a sign of having gotten more than a few miles on my tires, but I’ve been reflecting lately on the ratio of creativity to labor, and looking at projects through this lens. 

I dearly love the practice of honest labor: it does my body and monkish nature good to move about, rearranging myself and things around me. If this labor is in service of the practice of creative choice, it does both my body and soul good.

So while these little creature-cabins are indeed a serious bout of work, there’s a fine stream of creative choice at every turn. And lots of room to play with the mergence of plant, animal, insect, land and human forms that courses through my studio work.

In this installation, I chose to be very meticulous about showing up with everything needed to not just re-assemble the pieces, but to work out the little things that could only be finally resolved with all the elements together. I’d preassembled it the initial building process at my studio, but I knew there’d be no power on site and no hardware store anywhere near. I wanted to be enmeshed with the birthing process uninterrupted.

You can see two of the four copper roof sections waiting to be lifted up to the ridge beam. The curving door jamb is also a structural element.

The site becomes a temporary studio, especially as the details and finishing touches are fleshed out.

Note the big sheets of cardboard from the shipping process coming in handy on the ground as I was dashing in and out from crunchy gravel to oiled-wood floors. 

This design plays with contrasts: aged copper floating above white, translucent polycarbonate, natural forms defined by clean lines, natural materials set against manufactured panels. What invites these disparate materials to work together is the interplay of curves that keeps the eye moving, intermixing the elements, forming a kind of empathy between them.

At the core of my sculptural work is the ability of a still object to evoke movement. Yet, if it only suggests movement, it can feel ungrounded. What impassions me is creating objects that seem to be simultaneously at rest and in motion, as if the movement is constantly refueled by the stillness. 

These little buildings set on skids have for me a sense of perching, being at rest, but just momentarily. The curves arise from the flat bottom, which, instead of being adhered to the ground, floats on a shadow. 

The interior combines the smoothness of the outer surfaces with earthy burlap for a warm, intimate feel. It’s a tiny space, yet the relatively high ridge and flowing lines all around make it spaciously cozy.

Radiant color and curves: Lumenpear, Skyhull, and Seedpod series (2016)

Lumenpear series: Aspearsa

The studio work has been focused on tranluscent pears, boats and seeds. There's a blog dedicated to the unfolding of these series here. Some snapshots:

Pears and I go way back creatively, but now I get to mate them with all sorts of imaginings with the Lumenpear series. Perhaps one meets a snail in a garden...

Skyhull series: Slipperfin

A model rowboat hung from the studio ceiling for a while, during which time I proceeded to fall in love with hulls floating in air. The first of the Skyhull series combined a fanciful boat form with a surface that remembers its watery ways. 

Seedpod series: Waters of Mothers

Seedpod evolved from an earlier painted series that merged a seed form with abstract landscapes. Fertile ground here, starting with a translucent rebirth of a pregnant belly and its placental waters.