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I enjoy writing. It helps me clarify my thoughts. Every sculpture I create is really a story I find irresistible that finds expression in stone.

I usually have a lot of excess brain space when I am sanding and finishing a stone sculpture so I begin to write the blog for that piece in my mind. Having done quite a bit of research for each sculpture, I start by riffing on ideas.

I define the most important aspect of the creation process. Sometimes it is the story of the animal. Sometimes it is an experience I had with a particular individual. Often it is the story of the making of the sculpture. Every picture is worth at least a thousand words.

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New Perspective

“New Perspective” is a stone sculpture metaphor of the white-breasted nuthatch, and embraces a personal philosophy of optimism.  It is a contemplation on my new perspective after reading Humankind by contemporary Dutch sociologist Rutger Bregman.  In this book, he successfully argues that people are fundamentally kind and seek to help each other.

Inspiration

I am fortunate to have many wise friends who sent cards over the winter holidays expressing hope and opportunity to create a bright new world of love and light.  Their wishes resonate with me, and provide a new vision that looks forward.  

With all that is happening in the world, this is not a time for negative philosophies.  If I thought I was looking right side up in my old confining ideas, perhaps it is time for me to see upside down.

White-breasted Nuthatch Culture

The white-breasted nuthatch is an agile and acrobatic songbird found throughout the United States.  It is well-known from New York’s Central Park to the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest.  The nuthatch lives in mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, forest edges, suburbs, and in parks with large trees.  Populations of nuthatches are increasing because they can adapt to so many habitats. 

The nuthatch is sometimes nicknamed the upside-down bird because it is commonly found walking down the bark of large trees headfirst  looking for insects.  It has a very long toe facing backwards on its foot along with three toes that face forward.  The large backwards toe allows the nuthatch to walk headfirst down a tree by moving only one foot at a time and keeping the other back toe securely gripped to the tree.

During the winter, nuthatches join groups of chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and titmice in foraging guilds.  These are large groups of different kinds of birds who hang together for safety while feeding.  Each member of a species knows the alarm calls of other birds in the foraging guild.  This allows more birds to find more food, rather than needing birds of each species to stand watch for danger.

New Perspective, View 2, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury.
New Perspective, view 2.

Translating Metaphors

Nuthatch populations span the continent, and they are surviving and thriving.  Similarly, people span the continent.  Nuthatches have a unique way of going in their lives and see the world differently than we do.  Perhaps we can adopt a different point of view in perceiving our situations.  Nuthatches join with other bird species to keep a vigilant watch for the benefit of the whole group.  Inclusion allows all of us to move forward.  Fragmentation is a chaotic disaster for everybody, and ultimately works for nobody.

Andes Blue Onyx and Lodgepole Pine

The white-breasted nuthatch is about the size of a robin, with a black head, blue, black and gray wings, and a white breast.  I chose the opulent Andes Blue Onyx for its multi-colored stripes and deep color when contrasted with the textured stone of its white breast.  Blue Onyx is a rare stone found in only one quarry 10,000 feet up in the Argentine Andes.  It is now even more rare since the quarry has tripled their price per pound intending to sell Blue Onyx to jewelers.  The stone currently available to sculptors is now in each sculptor’s private inventory.  If one does not already have it in one’s stash, one is out of luck.    

Beetle-kill pine seemed an appropriate tree for this bird because it is a cavity nester and has moved into mostly dead lodgepole pine forests since the dramatic mountain pine beetle infestation of 2010.  I first used this trunk of pine for “2500 Beetles Per Day”, a stone sculpture of the hairy woodpecker.  Habitat changes caused by the climate crisis continue, and beetles will be a problem in our forests into the future.

Looking Forward

More and more, I find connectivity in ideas and reflections.  Tina Price is a visionary artist who created the Creative Talent Network, CTN, a community that promotes visual storytelling and animation.  CTN and the CTN Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, provide  opportunities for visual storytellers to create and show/share their work.  She made extensive predictions for 2024 that strike a responsive chord with me.  They are centered on her passion for animation and storytelling, but they relate to our culture on many levels, not just art.

Predictions from Tina Price and The Creative Talent Network Foundation

  1. I predict a trend to go back to basics. Meeting in person, the smell of real oil paint, home cooking, the feel of pencil on paper drawing and writing. The smell of coffee, the hearing of words in real time and the ‘live’ unscripted, unrecorded moments all outside and beyond your computer and phone. Keepin’ it Real.
  2. I predict a revelation in the existence and value of imagination and creativity as valuable currency.
  3. I predict a revival for anything NOT mass produced. A craving and respect for the originality of being created ‘by human’ over machine made.
  4. 2D, classical or traditional animation makes a comeback but in a whole new amazing fresh way cultivating an appreciation and culture for the hand-crafted medium for all ages.
  5. I predict the trend toward community. Intimate group gatherings, meetings and sharing freely in person through stories, lunches, sketch groups, a drink, or a game. Generating those chance and circumstance one-off moments. Give chance a chance.
  6. Bookstores in 2024 will make a comeback in a re-imagined way connecting neighborhood, creativity, and community.
  7. I predict a fear crushing movement in artists and artrepreneurs bringing exciting never before seen ideas, films, designs, and stories to the mainstream. Creating visual magic resonating around the world independently, and born into artists of all ages bringing us the new Walt Disney in the hearts of many.
  8. I predict that ‘experience wealth’ will win out over ‘monetary wealth’. A powerful bank account filled with experiences through seeing, exploring, and engaging, all being driven around by your own curiosity and instinct collateral.
  9. I predict a kinder gentler world in 2024 where gratitude is king. Where people helping people with a mutual respect and understanding for all living things indoor and outdoor is common. Peace on earth.
  10. I predict all of the above will begin with you as you shine your light to lead the way for the rest of us, as you make that dent in the universe.

Tina Concludes

I believe the window is open and now is not the time to shy away and head back into the comfort zone of all you know in the ‘me only’ movement.  Instead, lean into the ‘me and you’ movement as we head into 2024, the year of helping each other.

(Reprinted with the permission of Tina Price.)

Excerpts of Other Recent Entries

“Raspberry Tabby” is a stone sculpture homage to my little kitten, Chai, and to all tabbies, be they orange, gray, brown, or calico.  Though comparatively small in size, they are big tigers at heart. Inspiration I had a great time carving the first homage to my kitten, a sculpture titled “Drape”.  When I make a sculpture I dwell in the presence of my subject, and I so enjoy Chai’s company.  The small boulder of raspberry red alabaster was perfect for . . .
 

“C-9 of North America” is a stone sculpture homage to Coccinella Novemnotata, the Nine-Spotted Ladybug, known to biologists as C-9.  This particular species of ladybug has a voracious appetite for aphids and is a strong ally with farmers and gardeners against plant-eating insects. Inspiration I love gardens and have built many in my teeny yard.  My husband, Brian, has an awesome tomato garden every summer.  We garden organically and use no pesticides.  I learned from my Dad when I was . . .
 

“Quiet” is an avian stone sculpture tribute to finding the quiet place within yourself.  This has been a busy year for me, and I am glad I found a mental place to relax and refresh. Inspiration My good friend Helen gave me a book for my birthday titled Humankind, by Rutger Bregman, a contemporary Dutch sociologist.  Bregman proposes that people are fundamentally kind and want to help each other.  He presents documented evidence that refutes social philosophers who convinced us . . .
 

“Empathy for the Ocean” is a stone sculpture cartoon fish inspired by my concern for all of us on the earth.  It is a wish that we can find a way to work together to save our world.  It is the result of cascading collisions of ideas about warming oceans, science, DNA, anthropomorphism, animation, and empathy. Getting to Know the Ocean My sister moved from the Rocky Mountains to Long Island Sound several years ago because she wanted to be . . .
 

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