Protector

White bird with golden beak and outstretched wings sitting atop planet. Beneath one wing there are three strands of DNA, beneath the other, three stalks of wheat. Golden rays of sun from above. On dark blue background within wooden frame.

Materials: Hemlock, pine, plywood, glue, pin nails, spray paint, acrylic paint, polyurethane.

I got inspired to make this after seeing hemlock scrap wood left over from a wine-rack my father had made. There were all these small pieces of wood of different shapes and thicknesses, and I imagined how they could become feathers and wings on a bird. I collected a couple bags of these scraps, sorted through them, and then began laying the design out on a big board.

This gave me a pretty good rough idea of what the bird would look like. Then I thought of adding the planet, wheat, DNA, and sun elements. To make these, and also to make the bird more symmetrical, I ended up cutting a lot of new blocks specifically for this project, though there’s still plenty of scrap wood in this. Both the wine-rack scraps and the new blocks were mostly cut on a band saw. The band saw ended up being the main tool for this project. I still have all my fingers. Some of the smallest elements I cut using a scroll saw.

It’s on a square plywood board a little over four feet to each side. This is by far the biggest thing I’ve made and I like that it is big. Making big stuff can be impractical—everything is heavier, harder to move, harder to store—but I think it allows for an openness and freedom of expression that’s harder to do with something small.

The frame is built from hemlock that I finished with polyurethane and attached to the board with glue and pin nails. My father provided some very helpful woodworking knowledge and assistance at this stage. All other elements are attached with glue. This took a good deal of time and care to do.

There are 382 individual pieces in this. I painted each with two coats of acrylic paint, except for the rays of the sun and the beak, which I spray painted gold.

Overall I’m quite happy with how this turned out. I think it has an art-deco look to it, which is a style I haven’t explored much on my own, but which I like.