Near the end of a gravel road, letters cut from rustic wood proclaimed the residence of “Jack and Jill”, and yes, they lived up the hill, Hoover Hill to be exact, but more importantly their quaint log cabin nestled alongside Ollala Creek. About 100 million years ago, volcanic islands from somewhere around the equator slammed into western North America and formed gold deposits that trickled into many waterways, including, much to Jack’s good fortune, Ollala Creek.
On the threshold of the 1970’s, celebrations of art, music and wine blossomed everywhere, and I was not alone in being swept along, more as a participant than an observer. One particular event was a Spring arts and craft fair, which was to be forever known as the “Spring Fair”, and at this event I first exhibited the artworks representing what I surely knew to be my calling in life. Being infatuated with the myrtlewood of the region and working at a wild game park, I had a display of wildlife carvings and rustic wood shapes turned into various faces and animal forms.
As Jack and Jill browsed the art fair, Jack was drawn to my works, and to one piece in particular. It was a burl grained myrtlewood piece, a very hard wood that I had labored over for many hours, using only hand chisels and gouges to relief carve an old prospector panning for gold in a stream.
Jack came and went, and mused over this piece for quite some time, and finally introduced himself with a surprising proposal. “I would like to add some small nuggets in proportion to your carving, give the carved miner his prize,” he stated. I thanked him graciously, overwhelmed that this gentleman took such an interest in my work
Sure enough, Jack returned to the art show the following day with a vial of gold flecks and three small nuggets, proclaiming “ I panned these myself, out of our creek,” and went on to explain where he lived and some of his pursuits in life. We discussed the placement of the nuggets in the carving, and it all fit together well. Although this relief carving was rather crudely done in the early and humble beginnings of my artistic pursuits, this kind and wizardly elder seemed happy to reward my unbridled enthusiasm to create art with a generous contribution to the carving.
Since that time the gold miner piece has transformed into a talisman, a symbolic witness and a reminder for the tenacity needed to maintain a career as a nature artist. Perhaps this soul secret sounds quirky, but this talisman has remained a pivotal inspiration throughout my art career.
Gold nuggets added to the carving engendered an idea, enhancing the concept that myrtlewood was the medium that generated the “gold” of my career. After all, this resource of my region is one of the most beautiful hardwoods of the world. It was almost unfathomable that large segments of this material are scattered about and ignored because of their rough outward appearance and the effort needed to acquire them. This availability of resource gave me the means to create art and create a business.
At art exhibitions over the years I am often asked “Do you keep any of your own work,” and “You must have some nice work in your home.” The answer is always the same, that I like the art I create to go out into the world, that part of the challenge of creating my sculptures is to ensure that they will be desired by others. I do not cling to even the most impressive of pieces, or any random sculpture taking the most heart and soul to create, with the exception of one; a rustic myrtlewood slab carved into a grizzled old prospector panning in a stream, all lightly sprinkled with gold dust and modest nuggets.
Where on Earth?! Ollala and Roseburg, Oregon