Olive root burl, Santos Rosewood, Ebony
18"W x 68"H x 11"D

The olive root burl Smoke is carved from was given to me by a woodworking friend name Ron Gill who lives outside of Phoenix, AZ. I visited him while in Arizona for a family celebration. He had a pile of them stacked outside his garage. "Feel free to take one" he said as he ran into the house to grab something. My bags had been packed to overflow on the flight down. I picked a small piece and hoped I could fit it in. "No, really take a big one" he said when he came back out. I sorted though the stack, picked what I thought was an interesting one, borrowed a suitcase and flew it home.

A number of years before this I had been talking to an old friend about ideas for sculptures. I remember describing flowing forms. A few weeks later I received an e-mail from him with a link to an article on taking photos of smoke. "What about forms like this?"

Pretty cool idea.

While staring at the burl, which, I have to admit, was not very pretty, I remembered the article. I pulled up some of the images. Was it possible there was a "Smoke" in there?

I started carving the next day. I carved every day after that for four months. It became a bit of an obsession...

The burl was heavily weathered. In many areas I had to remove a lot of material to get down to good solid wood. I also removed a number of trunks the root system had sent up. The search for forms became a real collaboration. I had to work with what theĀ  burl gave me. Often, that changed dramatically as I removed material. Every day I carved was a new adventure. Those days of carving were some of the most focused, absorbed, Zenish days of my career.

It's hard to believe that under all that ugly - there was something so beautiful. The olive wood is very dense and fine grained. I love the burnt orange color and all the dramatic figuring. One of my favorite parts are the rocks. There are many that were embedded in the wood - it had grown around them.

I decided to put small LED lights in the top of the pedestal. They do a great job of creating highlights and getting light into areas left in shadow by overhead lights.

All in all a very fun project. I expect I will be doing more. Ron has a truckload of similar burls and he is waiting for me to come and get them...