In 1974 I set up a shop and began learning woodcraft by taking commissions for furniture and other custom woodwork. I had no clear idea what I was doing, but I was sure I needed to be making things I could touch, use, and walk around.
It took six years to arrive at a level of proficiency with design and craft that told me style and skill were coming together into original forms. I staged my first gallery show of furniture in 1980.
In 1986, saying yes to a crazy idea, my wife and I put our two businesses and our house in the hands of friends, sold our vehicles for travel expenses, and went with our two young daughters to New Zealand for a year.
In Christchurch I found and connected with L’Etacq School of Fine Woodworking, and was able to use the shop there, and the powerful inspiration of the Maori artifacts that were touring the country, to step out of the utilitarian forms of furniture and make my first sculptures.
The ‘reset’ of a year in New Zealand from 1986-87 initiated far more change than I could have imagined. Poetry and writing soon became tools for expression and exploration. Words wove threads around and through everything, answering questions and questioning answers.
During this period I finished my undergrad degree, and earned an MFA in creative writing and literature.
Back in the U.S. I began to make that insight a personal practice when I noticed that a subtle feeling of contempt, or disdain, had a way of working in me. I drew faces that expressed that feeling, then tried carving a few in wood. After a couple of tries I came up with a sneering face that felt accurate. I made it into a shrine that still hangs on the wall by my studio door.
The same processes that led to the wooden abstracts naturally flowed over into metal work when I learned to weld. The first of what became the Ring Dance series had that same exploratory collaboration with the materials that led to a a series of forms I could not have imagined in advance.
This sort of chaotic interaction with the materials and processes can be mentally challenging because the mind becomes concerned that without a plan how will you know if what you’re doing is right? Or if it will lead to something that holds an enduring intrigue.