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Nature’s Paradox

Nature's Paradox, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

A Great Idea!

This stone sculpture was made as a private commission for two clients, both genetic biologists, and their family. When they suggested “Nature’s Paradox” to me over a year ago, I knew very little about platypi.

Research has always been fun and interesting for me.  As an Animator, I always researched the animals on which I based my characters, and as a sculptor I find research equally important.

Behold the Paradox

Behold the platypus, truly a paradox of nature! This benign, enigmatic little creature is one of Australia’s treasured animals. It is one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. (The other, also from Australia, is the echidna.)

The platypus lays eggs which grow after they are laid.  The young hatch as very immature babies and nurse in the mother’s pouch until they are much bigger.

They have 4 webbed feet and spend much of their time in the water. Platypi eat crayfish and aquatic worms.  They close their eyes, ears, and nostrils while swimming underwater and locate their food using an electro-magnetic sensor on the underside of their bills.

The males have poisonous claws on their hind feet!

Platypi dig long burrows along the dirt banks of fresh-water streams and ponds where they live. The webbing on their front feet folds back into the palms of their hands to expose their long digging claws.

The Platypus Genome

Biologists recently completed mapping the platypus genome and discovered that the platypus has the DNA of reptiles, birds, and mammals.  This is exciting and intriguing news to many people, including genetic biologists and sculptors!  No wonder I fell in love with this creature!

Platypuses are not allowed out of Australia, so it has become one of my life goals to travel to their native land to meet them in person.


The stone is Mongolian Imperial Black Marble. This is an amazing, dirty, gorgeous stone.

Amazing in that is has fossilized sea shells in it, some pieces are shards and some are beautiful spirals.

Dirty in that the stone smells strongly of sulfur when it is cut and the dust is black.  My workshop resembled a cave during the many months of carving.

Gorgeous in that it finishes to a beautiful surface and the color darkens with each grit of sanding.


My platypus swims through a hole in a stone, the unfinished soft grey of the raw marble.

The water plant, an abstraction of a DNA strand, is finished to 1500 grit and is a deep charcoal gray.

The platypus himself is finished to a very high gloss shine at 10,000 grit. I achieved the shiny finish by using black rouge–a mixture of tin oxide, wax, and black pigment which sands and then polishes the stone.

The platypus feels smoother than glass to the touch, almost like it is wet and swimming under water.


“Nature’s Paradox” in Progress

Fun to Share

This piece was a challenge and a thrill to carve, and I want to share a little of my process with you. Ultimately, for me, the fun is in the process of creating.

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Nature’s Paradox

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