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Take Flight

Take Flight, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

Tailor-made for a Special Family

“Take Flight” is a privately commissioned stone sculpture created for a family of scientists and art-lovers.  The Dad’s profession allows him to fly all over the world for meetings and presentations, and he spends hundreds of hours in the air.  He has a bit of free time every once in a while to contemplate the world as he zooms above it, and he has friends and colleagues in many cities in many countries. 

The world is a small place from his perspective, made so through the miracle of flight.  This sculpture is a meditation on his experience.  He gave me the ingredients for his vision—a globe, a bird, a paper airplane, and a space shuttle.  We added the dove and flying dinosaur to the composition as the project evolved.

The title can be interpreted as “Consider Flight” and as “Take Off and Fly!”  Flying on our own is a miracle denied us by our physiology, but we can take flight as a result of our knowledge and ingenuity, and also through our imaginations.


“Take Flight” is composed of six sculptures that fit together to form this personal vision.  The globe is carved from Italian Ice Alabaster; the dove in the process of taking off is carved from Blue Onyx; the space shuttle, paper airplane, peregrine falcon, and eudimorphodon (the earliest known flying dinosaur) are carved from Sivec marble.


This project was an adventure in every way—from design to carving and  engineering.  Each day of carving was a new adventure for me. 

Is it possible to carve the dove in this pose in this stone—can such a dynamic pose be coaxed from such a seemingly fragile stone? 

Can I make really small sculptures with this amount of detail?  How will I stick them onto the globe?  How shall I drill the small stones?  Drill first and then carve?  Carve first and then drill? 

Will one pin be sufficient to hold the small pieces to the globe?  How will I figure out the angles at which to drill? 

What does the space shuttle look like exactly?  Can a paper airplane be carved from stone?  These were a few of the questions I asked myself.

Take Flight (back view), sculpture by Ellen Woodbury
Take Flight (back view)
Photo by Mel Schockner

Thinking Forward and Backward

Planning and choices were very important in this project.  All the decisions involved thinking ahead and thinking backwards.  What stones should I use based on their appropriateness for the purpose? 

I decided on Sivec marble (from Greece) for the tiny elements because it is strong in all directions, holds detail to catch the light, has beautiful small crystal, and has no vein to compete with the tiny shapes to be carved.

The globe needed to be a bit different in color and texture from the small elements, so I chose the semi-translucent Italian Ice.  It has a warm white color with soft veining.  One of the stipulations for the sculpture was that the separate elements could weigh no more than 40 pounds in order to be easily handled and moved by my patrons.  Alabaster weighs much less than marble and was the perfect material for the globe, which weighs in at 39 pounds.

Blue Onyx “Crown’ 

I adore Blue Onyx.  It is ever-so-tricky to carve, but the result is luminous and irresistible.  The crowning sculpture for this composition had to be Blue Onyx. 

The boulder from which I carved the dove was the most exquisite piece I have ever seen.  The color is outrageous, and it was a thrill and a delight to carve.  

I have included both views of “Take Flight” in this post because I want to share the whole composition with you.  I never do this due to the ease of pirating a design when 2 views are shown.  Please enjoy this one in its entirety.

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Take Flight

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