ABOUT SUNNY WOOD
Growing up close to nature has left me with a sense of beauty, a sense that I now am trying to emulate into my carvings. I grew up on a homestead in New Hampshire. We lived deep in the woods where it was very quiet. Sometimes, I hated that solitude, but I now realize I was given a gift through that experience. I now cherish the gift of inner quiet and my work comes from that inner quiet.
Now, I use the woods and beaches of Nantucket to inspire me every day. I soak up the visuals and smells, or the feelings I get from nature and bring them back to my studio. This fall, in Nantucket, I came upon a washed up Humpback whale on the beach. I was amazed at just how beautiful, even in death, the lines and curves of a real whale are and tried to imprint its shape and colors in my mind. I have photos of whales and an idea in my mind of what a whale looks like but to actually see and be near one was incredible and it made me feel good about carving. I went right home and drew out a bunch of whales trying to capture those flowing lines before they disappeared from my mind.
When I’m working on a piece, I let the piece guide me. Whether it’s following the grain or just feeling the undulations that might eventually present themselves as muscles on the whale. Some wood you do not need to work much at all but rather strive to keep as much of the natural texture as possible. Some wood wants to be polished like glass. I can never plan exactly how a piece is going to turn out with all the given natural variables between the carving and painting process.
I usually use reclaimed lumber. I plane the edges and glue them together, cutout, round the edges and glue the fin on. From there, I start with chainsaw and grinders to rough out my piece. The whale’s eye is the most important part of my work. This is what draws people in and gives the final piece so much character. For this I use a carving knife, chisel, dremel, and sand paper. The teeth take a lot of time, when I carve them, I feel like a dentist but I love whale teeth, so it’s worth the effort!
After all the sanding and distressing, it’s time for paint. There are about 7 steps to the painting process which results in a rustic-traditional scrimshaw look. I do a lot of different whales in different colors but the grey and white "scrimshaw" look is a classic favorite.
What I am really focused on in a finished piece is a sense of presence. If I feel like the finished whale is looking back at me then I know it’s a good one; it feels alive! The curves and different contours should invite the touch and the finish should make you question how old the piece might be. My work references a special time in Nantucket history and it’s an honor to have my work end up in a collector’s home over a mantle where my whale gets to be the focus of the main living space.