Artist: Christian Burchard

Christian Burchard

I have been working with wood for most of my life. We are comfortable with each other, have a close relationship and I value the connection immensely. I am curious what is inside, how it works. I am always looking for the gifts it has to offer. At times I am awed by its beauty and the story of its history, the tracks that the passing of time have left. I am driven to expose this beauty, to make it shine. At other times I am more fascinated with its inner structure, its more subtle form and spirit.

I work just about exclusively with Pacific Madrone from the Arbutus family. My favorite parts are the burls that grow within the roots of these trees. They are harvested for the veneer market and I use the rejects from this harvest. These burls often weigh many thousand pounds. To make them usable, the dirt and rocks have to be removed, then they can be cut into blocks. By working with wet wood with a high water content (up to 20% of it’s volume) and by cutting or turning my forms very thin (to about an 1/8th of an inch) I take advantage of and encourage the changes that occur as the wood dries. As the water evaporates and leaves the cells and the space between the cells, the wood shrinks. Depending on how those cells were aligned in its structure, some very dynamic changes occur.

I work with a variety of tools. The chainsaw is used for most of the wood preparation but also for sculptural pieces. Here, the marks that are left are dramatic and forceful. The lathe is used for round forms; mainly in a series I call ‘Baskets’. Tool marks here are subtle and soft. In my current series of wall sculptures, called ‘Fragments’ and ‘Torsos’ I work with the band saw and a horizontal band saw mill to cut large blocks of Madrone burl into very thin panels. The saw leaves subtle lines across the surface of the wood. I dry these panels slowly over a period of weeks, sometimes months, in a controlled environment, allowing them to take on their final shape, while minimizing the chances of cracking.