Marsha van Rijssen / Marsha Elliott DesignsI have been called a squirrel by fellow hikers. I love foraging for unique twigs, nuts, and leaves in perfect...
When I start a new carving, I study the wood for a long time before cutting into it. Achieving a great result requires reading the wood carefully. If you do it properly, it will guide you in bringing the critter inside to life. It takes many hours to finish each sculpture, but it's a trip that makes my pulse race, and keeps me coming back.
As a child, I loved painting and drawing, but artistic endeavors were put on a shelf when I went to college and out in the world. I graduated with a masters degree in business from Appalachian State University, then entered the military where I flew gunships in Viet Nam. After the military, I went to work for one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. Despite the highly charged creative atmosphere of an advertising, I still had personal creative urges that were unfulfilled.
One faithful day, 35 years ago, my mother-in-law gave me an old duck decoy she had purchased at a yard sale. It was worn and scratched and beaten up, but to me it was a sleek piece of art that was lovingly hewn from wood by human hands. I was instantly hooked! For the last 35 years I have self-taught myself to carve all manner of "wild things." I am especially interested in carving birds of prey. Tupelo and basswood are my primary carving woods with mounting woods that range from driftwood to manzanita root to black walnut formal bases. The style I most often utilize is "realistic" which focuses on carving finite details like feathers and fur which make my critters seem alive. My personal philosophy of style is that my sculptures are merely a frozen instant in action, not a stiff formal pose. Secondly, the personality of the piece is essential. That is why I always carve the face as soon as possible. The face determines the feeling of the piece and brings it to life. If it has the proper personality and demeanor, everything else will follow.
In 2003, Carole and I, and our large brown dog, returned to our beloved Blue Ridge high country. I established a studio/shop in our home near Boone, NC. Since then, I have entered several regional woodcarving competitions, and returned home with best-of-show awards, a people's choice award, and eleven category blue ribbons. My highest honor came in August of 2007 when I was inducted into the Southern Highland Craft Guild.