I get very excited when I’m plundering a massive field of driftwood, because I usually see possibilities in one of every four or five pieces I see–many more than are practical to carry or store.
I often go to a place just across the Ohio River from my home in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s called The Falls of the Ohio, where a massive concrete structure–part of the locks and dam system there–diverts tons of driftwood and junk to various places on the riverbank every day. For a driftwood-hunter, it’s paradise, and I sometimes pile up more stuff than I can drag out without hurting myself.
When I have time to create, I sometimes check my notebook to see if I’ve sketched anything that has come to me when I first wake up (a common phenomenon), or when I’m on an airplane, or just daydreaming. If nothing jumps out at me, I just start pulling pieces out of the pile to see what inspires me. Usually it only takes a few minutes to see possibilities and start arranging pieces together, maybe ripping a piece to see what it looks like inside, even dabbing some natural stain on it to see if the color pops. I rarely know what a piece is going to look like before I start, because I go on tangents and try lots of compositions that don’t work. I’ve made a few pieces that were so ugly my artist wife couldn’t help but laugh at them–which I intended because I knew they were pretty hideous. Being my biggest fan and most astute Third Eye, she’s also talked me out of throwing away what I considered failures: “Are you nuts?! This is gorgeous!”
I take great pride in making the pieces solid, gluing wherever possible and hiding the fasteners–mostly drywall screws, but often tiny little screws a half inch or 5/8″ long. One quality-assurance test I use is to pick up the piece and give it a gentle shake. If it rattles at all, I find where and try to batten down the rattle. I like them all to have a very solid, lasting feel.
There’s nothing more satisfying than working a piece until I think it’s just right, hanging it on a wall, and judging that it is in fact “Just Right,” and something I’d be proud to say I made. Sometimes it’s so exciting that I immediately start on the next piece.