Marble sculpture by Ellen Woodbury
Colorado Yule Marble on Granite
30 x 21 x 17 inches
completed December, 2008
Here is a photo of my most recent sculpture, “Phoenix Rising,“ completed in mid-December, 2008. This project was begun in July at the Marble/marble Symposium held every summer in Marble, CO.
I have attended Marble/marble for the last 3 years. In June I started thinking about the sculpture I wanted to make and about what was most significant in the past year since the last M/m in 2007. “Phoenix Rising” was inspired by the help I received from the instructors, staff, and participants (both from 2007and from past symposiums) which made my year remarkable and memorable. Their generous gifts of knowledge about all aspects of stone carving are valuable lessons I will use for years to come. To all of my teachers, I sincerely thank you! Your good energy is part of this creation.
At the symposium during the blocking-out process for “Phoenix Rising,” I noticed that the stone came off in separated, crumbly layers when I sliced off thin slabs. When I touched these thin layers, they didn't fall off the block or disintegrate the way other thin slices of Yule Marble have crumbled in the making of other sculptures. I had to push on these crenulated fans in order to make them fall away. I mentioned this to Madeline, the Founder and Director of Marble/marble (and one of the sculptors to whom I direct many questions), and she said this indicates a very strong bedding plane (the layers of seashells laid down 100 million years ago which were compressed to make the marble.) I believe this very strong bedding plane is the reason why the wings are able to exist. They undulate through the bedding plane (the strongest axis) which runs vertically through the width of the stone. Both tips of the wings curve well away from this axis and yet they didn't fall off in the process of creation. I feel like the stone was perfect for the design and allowed me to coax it into these curving shapes. I love this Yule Marble! Every bit of careful effort you put into your sculpting returns to you 10 times over in successful forms, pristine color, subtle veining, and dazzling snowflake crystal.
I wanted to explore the play of light on curved and faceted surfaces in this sculpture. In southern California, Brian and I lived in a house that had many doors, windows, and sky lights that allowed light to come in from all angles. The interior of the house was painted white, and the rooms were designed with angled ceilings, inset spaces, and arches. The light came in through the windows and was divided into colors of the spectrum by the interior angles. One surface would have a rosy color and an adjacent, angled surface would have a bluish shade. Inspired by that pretty little house, I was curious to see if I could divide the light into colors with the curved and faceted wings of my marble bird. (This idea is still untested as I have not had the opportunity of a sunny location to study the play of light.) The sculpture is meant to be exhibited indoors in partial sun--the marble and granite will not fade in sunlight.
For me, this sculpture is about hope and new beginnings, a celebration of learning how to carve stone. I still have much to explore and I am looking forward to that process, but I am pleased by what I am able to create now. “Phoenix Rising” embodies my re-invention as a stone sculptor. This bird rises from the embers of one art form (animation) to inspire and inform another.
My next sculpture is a private commission for a platypus--an enigma of the animal world. The project was suggested to me last March, and I have been looking forward to carving this for many months. The stone is Mongolian Imperial Black Marble. The maquette has been approved, the marble block is on the carving stand, the blade is spinning, and the black dust is flying!
It is going to be a great Spring!
All text and images Copyright 2008 by Ellen R. Woodbury
Photo by Jim Digby