Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Americana Black Walnut Bald Eagle 

Half Spread Sitting Eagle

A project that had been on hold for over a year now, awaiting for visual signs of wood block drying behaviour. The now stable thick block of Black Walnut had been cut from a large tree felled in a Pulaski, VA church parking lot about 11 years ago. I had cut the log in sections 5 to 6 foot long for easier transport and storage. I wanted the "Eagle" to be "accurate", yet resemble the old Americana and German styled eagles often depicted in seals and statuary in a sitting pose with half spread wings. Due to size, both wings required to be separate component in a double mortise/tenon keyed arrangement I had developed before for another large scale "bird".

                                                                           Head Detail

 This photo shows the
oversize tenon required
for holding the right side
wing in place.


         The photo above shows the full body, one piece block of black walnut wood, well dried and stable.                                                                                     

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lots to Do...

The Art Studio

For quite a while now I've been working to restore an old (1870's) doctor's office which stand next to the old Colonial home he had built for his family, our presently renovated home. It's a good size building with a simple old times charm and original materials that are in great shape, which makes for a less costly undertaking. I began by leveling the structure, removing all the wood siding and insulating the walls from the outside, then replacing and adding additional windows to allow for more light to reach into the interior and to help with ventilation. A wall towards the back (the doc's office) was removed and the wide horizontally configured planks preserved for future reuse. Most of the work has been done with only the tedious trim painting and new roofing.

Downy Woodpecker Woodcarving (Finished)

A few days back I received a request for a Downy woodcarving and so have been working a few hours per day getting it ahead for delivery June 9th. It's not a complex project, but one that requires time and detail work. Trying not to miss on the nice weather opportunities for outdoor fun, while my son is back from college, I have been working on it mostly at night. The 3 most recent pictures show the finished work, kiln dried Eastern White Pine was used for the bird, a pyropen to detail all feather groups and Jo Sonja acrylics to apply the color markings of the species. Quality glass eyes are inserted and eyelids created/molded by hand to add realism and to serve in securing the eyes permanently. The display was set of a split branch of Oak that was extensively worked to show the best grain patterns.
Downy Woodpecker
 Carved from kiln dried Eastern White Pine, pyrographic pen detailing of feather groups and final application of color. The bird will be mounted on to a wooden substrate to be hanged on a wall, a more suitable display option for these type of birds.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Art & Design...a great source of inspiration for those of us who can't have enough of it all...check it out: Design Milk or their Blog

Monday, April 7, 2014

Woodcarving Restoration and Repair Pictorial

Two of the bird woodcarvings sold at auction on April 5, 2014 had sustained damage that required serious
work. I had offered the new owners the option to get the bird woodcarvings repaired before they took them home, at no cost to them, as I always do with those customers who purchase my birds. So they both made the trip back home with me. All the repair work was completed today and so only the finishing, painting and cleaning work remains for tomorrow.

2005 Chickadee nest Repair

Soldered flattened copper wire loop anchor view inserted into body

 Epoxy "bark" exposed copper wire frame that forms the external branch which supports the Male Chickadee. This branch had to be removed to allow me to gain easier access to make the necessary modifications and repairs to reattach the Male Chickadee.
The exposed portion of copper wire shown is the point chosen to solder a new copper loop directly into the nest cavity to get a stronger attachment point.
 A view of the working zone and tools on the kitchen table.

 Photo of interior of nest enclosure showing new copper anchoring point covered in epoxy clay. Also, a new
guide restrict the drop rate of the box lid to prevent recurrence of breakage.
 Freshly reattached male Chickadee awaiting epoxy curing.
 A more clearer view of new interior anchor point and lid retainer. Female Chickadee has been permanently secured by wire inserts into body, instead of using acrylate, which failed to keep bird secure in the box as was originally intended.

Chickadee Nest awaits painting work


2006 Cardinal Woodcarving Pair

 Edge of tail damage repaired with epoxy clay.
 Female Cardinal crest loss repair is shown at right. Slivers of pine wood were inserted to extend the sections missing. Acrylate glue was then used to secure the wood slivers. Shaping them into form was achieved by pyrographic pen.
 View of feather extensions as the slivers of pine wood are applied and shaped.
 Also damaged were the thin copper sheet hand stamped leaves inserted into the wooden branch that supports the male Cardinal. These two leaves needed to be soldered at the proximal end towards the branch.

 Reinforcement to second leaf by soldering damaged edge of leaf.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fine Furniture by James Sheppard


The bold stepped cornice above a raised panel door and single door flanked by hand fluted quarter columns is a stunning sight. Fully hand crafted from beautifully selected figured Tiger Maple, each board and wood moulding hand planed and rubbed to a finish that demands to be felt by the touch of a hand to fully appreciate. I always nursed the dream of rightfully owning this particularly glorious fine cabinet beauty ever since I first saw Jim selecting the wide boards that he had stored for years in a shop. I am now the proud owner. This particular one is the last of 3 Jim crafted from stunningly figured Tiger Maple. It is signed, inscribed and dated "James Sheppard / Tiger Maple # 3 / Green Bank, W. V. / 1-11-06 / MMV I". Circa 2006. Dimensions are: 35" H, 25 1/4" W, 15 1/4" D. This incredible cupboard is a structural replica of the famed Spitler paint-decorated hanging cupboard (see last photo below). Jim Sheppard hand crafted a number of these cupboards in exact detail, both in painted pinewood and figured Tiger Maple. 

Provenance:Collection of the late John and Lil Palmer, Purcellville, VA. Purchased from the cabinetmaker in 2006.

 Important Shenandoah Valley Johannes Spitler (1774-1837) Decorated Yellow Pine Hanging Cupboard, Circa 1800- Sold $962,500, November 13, 2004, lot 237, for a Page Co., VA estate. 

Studio and Gallery Update

The Process...

So quite a bit of work remains to be done outside and inside before I can announce an opening, hopefully, clear dry weather will prevail and allow for the application of exterior paint. Porch details are partially in place as well as all weathering caulk. I searched into my head magma for a quick design for the roof apex vent and executed the final idea from old galvanized metal sheeting and old copper sheeting. As seen on photo below. The old galvanized metal had multiple coats of green paint slightly rubbed, perfect background for a vine design with bird cutouts filled with old shiny copper sheeting. The afternoon Sun reflects upon the surface and shines bright.
Cut outs allow for heat venting while at the same time showing a decorative element related to the building's new purpose as a Studio / Art Gallery. I plan on applying bright Colonial period colors to the front facade and door, leaving the sides a dark chocolate shade as was the building's original color... more to come later as progress ensues.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It is cold outdoors, but luckily toasty warm in my living room where I sit to update the blog. 

Last July, John and Lil' Palmer, a couple who I befriended and kindly patronize my work, tragically lost their lives in a fatal single-car accident while returning from a trip to see mutual friends here in Green Bank. Sadly, I missed seeing them because I was in Seattle,WA on my way back to the East Coast.  The Palmers were well-known and highly-respected collectors of Americana focusing on Virginia and the South with a special emphasis on important Virginia folk pottery. John recorded detailed provenance and research notes for their collection and many pieces carry publication and exhibition records. Lil loved birds and had an eye for collecting and acquiring those she liked. She owned many of the wooden birds I carved and commissioned several large pieces. Her common method of coaxing me to carve her more birds was by telling me that "her birds were lonely and they wanted more friends" I am not a high volume producer and must go into a trance of insanity to produce bird artwork, it's that hard for me.  Next April 5 their entire collection will go for auction at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates, see link: