This summer past… wait, is Summer over yet? Let me rephrase. This past August, I stopped working in yellow pine. Just plain yellow pine and plywood and all construction-grade wood that really is in abundance, I stopped salvaging it and stopped using it in my work. This is the stuff you get at Home Depot or any manufactured lumber store. It’s young wood, very easy to use, versatile. The plywood in particular was very useful because large shapes like these angels could all be cut out of one piece. Yellow pine can be used used for lucrative pieces of art that really stand out on a wall.
Yellow pine is a great return on investment also. A single 5′ 2×4 could yield a dozen or so pinehead sculptures and they sold on Jackson Square for $30. And these 2x4s are laying around everywhere. They stick out of dumpsters, sit on the side of the road, take up space in people’s sheds. Make a conscious effort to note every time you see a useless 2×4 and you’ll know what I mean. Yellow pine is great stuff for a salvaged wood artist. It’s the same stuff people build houses with except at some point its status has been transformed from “construction materials” to “salvaged wood” simply by it being left, abandoned or tossed out. So one can easily see how useful and abundant it is.
So, I’m not going to use it anymore.
There are a few reasons for this.
One is that I am trying to stand out a little further from the growing number of slavaged wood artists around New Orleans and the rest of the country. Let’s be honest, salvage works two ways. It saves the artists money on materials and gives the buyer a reason to buy since they become less of a mindless consumer and more of contributor to recycling. Win /win for both. So many artists are now doing it and that is a good thing for the world.
For particular artists however, it just washes out their particular appeal a little bit more. Comes with the territory. The Universe giveth and taketh away. Artists needs to do something to make themselves stand out other than the salvage, generally related to the content of the pieces. I certainly try to do that as much as possible and my being a bit of a twisted fuck has certainly helped. But I wanted to do something more.
So this is where the switch comes in. In less abundance around New Orleans is the very beautiful swamp wood cypress and its antique counterpart heart pine. These woods are special in a few ways.
Firstly because of their age. Growth rings within them almost always reveal a few centuries of growth. Customers who buy them often don’t realize they just bought the oldest thing they may ever own. Also, they are beautiful. Both cypress and heart pine have amazing textures and colors that transcend yellow pine. Third, they used to be houses. It’s not like these pieces of wood were just leftover from some job site. These were actually in New Orleans housing stock and usually functioned in a home for 100 years in addition to the two or three centuries they grew as a tree. The genesis of the piece really began before the Untied States was even a country. I love that and it’s easier to sell to people also.
Cypress and heart pine is indeed more difficult to find though. But I don’t mind that so much. It gives me a reason to hunt for it. I live in Algiers Point, one of New Orleans oldest ‘hoods. Renovations happen. A lot of the cypress I am using right now cam from my own renovation. But still, there is a certain thrill to the hunt. And clients like to think of me bumping around New Orleans in a truck collecting the stuff.
But, my oh my, is it fun to work with. Cypress cuts easy, smells great and leaves a fine, fine sawdust. Heartpine fights you the whole way, dulls your blades, has knots that seems impossible to saw through. It’s ornery but it is strong. I love it for that.
Clients like it also. I have displayed it on the Square for a few weeks now and they are responding to it. Paying full price and recognizing its beauty. Which is nice.
So from now on. Only antique woods, rarer woods and found objects. No more plywood or yellow pine. If you have a piece that contains this stuff, congratulations. You have a bit of a collectors item.
Some pieces using all cypress are below..