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Katerie's Burl January 2022


“Kateri’s Burl” by Frank Goff 2022

Carved oak burl 22”x 8”x 8”

$1,500 sales price


A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. It may be caused by an injury, virus or fungus. The grain inside is often highly figured, swirling, and unique, making it prized for woodworking projects such as bowl turning, or in my case, sculpture.


I used a direct carving approach to this project. Direct carving means you do not have a preconceived idea about what the final image will be. No preliminary drawings or models are used. You work with the material first, discover what’s there, and develop what you find.


The oak burl was about two feet tall, egg shaped and covered in a thick layer of bark. Stripping off the bark revealed contrasting swirling light and dark lines moving from the top to the bottom. The pattern flowed around several rounded forms that projected outward. This beautiful landscape became the point of departure for the carving journey. Some rounded forms were left vague and undefined near the base allowing the unique pattern of the grain to stand out. Others were shaped into oval forms suggesting eggs and turtle shells. Moving upward, bird forms and flowering vines appeared and were refined by carving out the negative shapes around them. The apex of the egg form culminated in a woman’s bust.


The resulting image suggested the concept of fecundity and alluded to ancient mother goddess figures carved in ivory and stone. To preserve the earthy quality of the material, a walnut oil finish was applied. Finally, a title for the sculpture was required. I considered mythological figures that represent what we would call “Mother Nature” today. In my search for a suitable title, I discovered Kateri Tekakwitha. She was an Algonquin-Mohawk from present day New York State who converted to Christianity in the 1600’s. Kateri is the patron saint of ecology and Native American peoples, who have long modeled the call to be stewards of Creation, seeking to live in harmony with nature.


Frank Goff December 23, 2021

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