My husband, Stephen, and I took the last 2 days to explore an area of SC that is truly amazing. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Brookgreen Gardens, just south of Myrtle Beach, SC, it is an amazing experience.
Archer Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington purchased 4 rice plantations along the SC coast in the 1920s that were no longer in working order. They employed many local people to help fix the buildings and gardens, and since this was in the middle of the depression, they made a huge impact on the local economy by simply giving people work.
The reason Brookgreen Gardens was so interesting to me is that Anna Hyatt Huntington was a sculptor (sculptress?). She mostly did large bronze sculptures of realistic animals in action. She also collected many sculptures from other, mostly American sculptors – in bronze, stone, and wood. The gardens have hundreds of sculptures and two days was definitely NOT enough time to enjoy all that was there.
There is also Huntington Beach State Park nearby that has the home they lived in and her sculpture studio that used to be army barracks.
They decided to move to warmer climate because she had TB so they moved to SC from New York. I thought that was interesting because you mostly hear about people with TB moving to drier climates out west – not humid SC! But I guess the move was good for her because she lived to be 97 – and was making sculptures most of her life.
They didn’t really need to worry about “making a living” because Archer Huntington was from a rail-road family, and Anna was quite a famous and wealthy artist in her own right. Ahhh… the freedom to create without the concern about actually paying bills! What an odd concept…
Sometimes I am asked what I would do if I did not have to carve to make a living. It’s a difficult question to answer, because I truly love to carve! I’m not sure I would change a thing.
Maybe one thing that I might try is that I would do more sculptural pieces of my own design – both in wood and stone. I don’t get much opportunity to do this. In fact, I really only have had one stone carving commission – the 8 foot tall limestone dolphin fountain. All the other stone carving sculptures have simply been pieces I have done for myself as “practice”.
Occasionally I get a commission to carve a sculpture in wood, but not often. When I do, I really do enjoy it because it becomes a completely different challenge than decorative carving. Sometimes it’s easy to settle into what you know and what you are comfortable with (ball and claw feet, acanthus leaves, etc) and that’s when it’s good to stretch your skills into something that brings you into those areas where you feel like you have to turn your brain inside out. That’s not a bad thing!
I have 2 more episodes to add before the full lesson is on the site. I’ll be adding a lesson each week. This was a challenging project because it was a small carving and I didn’t want to hold it in my hand while carving (I don’t like to bleed). I needed to figure out a way to leave strategic pieces of wood attached so I could clamp it to the workbench. It was a challenge, but I really enjoyed the process.
I have a blog post on carving this – Carving a cardinal