Sculpture Process

Forming:

Bog oak is a natural phenomenon occurring in small pockets in Ireland. The wood can be up to 7000 years old and was formed when the great oak forests began to die, their great bodies enveloped in a deepening layer of moss and other fauna. Submerged in up to eight metres of bog, a unique process took place.

The acid in the bog reacted with the tannin in the oak, causing the wood to harden and darken to its distinctive black colour – this only happens with oak.

Finding:

For millennia, it lay hidden in the cold depths of the bogs. Then, in the 20th century, harvesting of the peat began, hand in hand with land reclamation for the expanding clusters of villages and towns. The treasure was slowly, gradually unearthed.

Selecting:

Trawling the bogs for the right piece requires dedication, a keen eye and above all, patience. This slow work brings rich rewards, in the form of great, hulking pieces, which are brought to Brian’s store and air-dried naturally for at least three years. Only then can the selection process begin. The wood is in limbo, awaiting rebirth.

Shaping:

Once a husk has been selected, its flaky outer shell must been removed. The shape below is cut and carved, until the final form emerges. Then a repeated cycle of sanding and polishing completes the piece. The inner potential of the piece is then revealed, having first been sensed by Brian.

The challenges of working with this medium add to the worth of the finished piece: ‘it’s not simple,’ says Brian, ‘I can’t set up a production line. I can do a similar theme, but I’ll never recreate the same piece twice.’