I am an artist and I’ve been working…
There are literally millions of people for whom it is an artistic venture to combine materials into a craft project. Textiles, carving and many assemblages can produce imaginative and stunning results in the hands of a skilled crafter. But when does one’s craft transcend the perceived limitations of the category into art, with the maker transformed as artist?
In Kirstie Beaven’s essay for the UK’s Tate Debate, “When Is Craft an Art?” she suggests “perhaps intention makes the distinction… perhaps it’s how the maker learned their skill.”
To commandeer nature’s own handiwork and transform it into living sculpture or functional art pieces is more than just skilled labor. Fine craft artisans or makers have the artistic vision, knowledge of the materials and proper tools to fabricate works that honor the spirit of the components. This seems to be especially true when the subject is ancient wood retaining a physical history.
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Meet Will Scroggins of Moonstone Redwood Gallery in Cambria. For the last several years, tourists and locals have enjoyed seeing his creative work on display indoors and outside on Moonstone Beach. The large-scale dragon fashioned from a huge redwood trunk was enough to cause rubbernecking traffic congestion. But while whimsical construction may get the most attention, Scoggins also designs, fabricates and installs unique functional tables, chairs and other artistic pieces for homes and businesses around the country. His work is mostly done in an imposing scale with compelling details suitable for reverentially large spaces. In other words, these pieces need space to show off.
No less than internationally acclaimed author Catherine Ryan Hyde espoused the beauty of Scoggins’ work, providing an introduction to the artist as displayed on the home page of his website saying, “A 600 year-old lone, tortured ‘Medusa’ of a redwood tree changed a man’s life, turning him into a co-creator of nature’s art.”
In 2006, Scoggins received a call from a man who needed to remove a tree at the entrance to an estate on top of Mount Madonna in Watsonville that had fallen after being repeatedly struck by lightning. It had a tortured configuration from its 600 years of survival, with extravagant deep coloration and turns. That tree started everything that began filling his workshop and studio, and he has not stopped since.
When asked why he does what he does, Scroggins described the joy of being self employed and free to create. Being disinclined to follow rules and having over 25 years of carpentry under his (tool) belt, he feels capable, qualified and confident to interpret his vision. For the past 12 years of his carpentry employment, he worked for a California company that created cinematic props. From that experience he found that there is almost nothing that cannot be made with the right materials and skills.
Scoggins frequently leaves some areas of his composition unfinished so that the grandeur of the wood’s history remains visible and natural. This combination is effective especially when integrating copper with redwood slabs or burls, much like ancient architectural features may remain uncovered with modernization. He admits that he used copper sparingly with his earlier designs and has come to embrace an emboldened approach over time, creating a somewhat signature style. The combination is organic and engaging.
Currently, he is scouting a 1,000-acre forest near Santa Cruz to find fallen, burned but usable logs. Sometimes he sees a bench under the charcoal, but more often he allows the wood to become what it already is: beauty in the hands of the maker, artisan and artist.
For more information on Scroggins’ work, visit www.moonstoneredwood.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Moonstone Redwood Gallery at 4044 Burton Drive.
Through Nov. 25
Allied Arts Association
1350 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428
“Flora and Fauna” a group show of ceramic artists from the Dancing Dog Clayworks Studio.
Through Dec. 5
San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
1010 Broad St., San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
“A Roomful of Ghosts” works by David Limrite