Artists have used media of all types to create beautiful objects or to attempt to convey the beauty that exists in nature. As a woodworker I delight in discovering the beauty within a piece of wood and trying to find ways to display that in work that is generally traditional and almost always functional. Sometimes Mother Nature has different ideas, and all I can do is try to not spoil what she has created – any excess work or ornamentation would subtract from the piece and not enhance it.
This was certainly the case with some spalted sycamore that I was able to obtain. I was drawn to the material when I first saw it, but it remained unused in my shop for a couple of years. Every time I looked at it I saw a landscape, or more accurately, a seascape… The spalted lines in the Sycamore looked as if an artist had painted them in exquisite detail with a fine brush and India ink. I had to display this piece of Mother Natures artwork in a way that didn’t detract from it.
The idea for a small display shelf that would highlight the sycamore began to develop in my mind. I envisioned some sort of a small sacred display area to hold precious items…a contemplative scene. If the sycamore was the seascape, then the shelf itself would be the beach leading to the waters edge. A beautiful piece of ambrosia maple seemed perfect for the task. And there is a certain irony in that the two principal pieces of material in making this elegant display unit both derive much of their beauty from damage due to insects or fungus….their is beauty even in decay.
The scene began to further develop in my mind and the ocean depths and the mysteries of the ocean would be contained in two small drawers, faced with walnut burl, the swirling patterns of the burl evocative of the ocean depths. The design of the drawers and the asymmetrical design, a tribute to the randomness in nature. The drawer designs also allow for the creation of a mounting method that does not detract from the display. The sides of the drawers are made from curly maple, a wonderful light and wa y pattern that delights when you open the drawers, and the drawer bottoms are Spanish cedar. The drawer knobs were turned from ebony and designed to almost disappear and not detract from the walnut burl.
The unit was finished in several coats of shellac, hand rubbed to a beautiful gloss finish and then a fine paste wax was rubbed on.