Paul van Altena

Artist
Auburn
45C
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Trees have always inspired wonder in me. When they transition from life they leave a beautiful body of wood. The raw logs that are left, which can be beautiful in their own right, conceal an even greater wonder inside. These trees which have been around for centuries in some cases, and have been providing beauty, clean air and water, homes for animals and humans alike deserve to be preserved in a respectful way. In my work I either start with a project in mind or sometimes a certain piece of wood will inspire a project. I always take great care to approach the project with an open mind as each one seems to evolve organically as the wood reveals itself through cutting, shaping and sanding. I may envision a specific shape, but at each step in the creation a unique grain pattern will come into view and I will adjust accordingly. I have yet to match the end result with the initial idea which is a big part of the appeal of this type of work.

I prefer to use locally sourced, sustainable woods instead of exotic tropical hardwood in respect of nature. The actual fabrication of the wood begins with the slabbing of the log. In this process the resulting slabs are actually mirrors of each other. There are many opportunities at this point to choose material that will greatly enhance the end product. Instead of visiting a lumber yard to pick random boards and put together a somewhat random project, one has the opportunity to let the natural beauty of the wood speak for itself and make sense in its own way. The rough sawn surface can conceal much of what lies beneath and it takes some experience to guess what that might be. The second part of the process ( apart from the drying of the slabs which can take years) is the surfacing of the rough exterior. This is the first big reveal and quite exciting. The slabs tend to twist and check (crack) in varying degrees according to the care taken during the drying process as well as the type of wood and also the particular piece of wood and how it grew. The surfacing not only cleans off the dirt and stains but must also cut a straight and untwisted and parallel piece of wood. At this point one has a piece of wood that can be machined into a project.

Medium: Wood Slab Art