There came a point in the project when James was no longer able to work on it, so I needed to find a new woodworker to collaborate with. Luckily, Kerry O'Toole was available to help bring the project to conclusion. He has a large studio in Grafton, which is just across the river from Woodstock. Kerry is an experienced woodworker who carves anything from large sculptures to fine details in furniture.
By the time Kerry and I started working on it, the main trees were mostly complete, and the canopy was just started. So there was a lot that I needed Kerry to work on, such as the foreground and background parts of the forest and the rest of the tree canopy.
Above you can see Kerry's initial progress and how we used tape and Sharpie marker to plan where different parts of the composition needed to be positioned. Kerry was quick to jump to the task and his style of markmaking was perfect for the remaining portions of the mural. I still needed to make one more tree -- a white birch. Also, there still remained a number of understory plants for me to shape out of copper.
By the time we had all the space filled in, the architecture firm's deadline was looming. But we were on track to meet it.
Kerry even carved his own interpretations of some of the understory plants, such as the bloodroot and trillium, while I continued to shape them in copper.
Once all of the wood elements were in place, Kerry and I worked together to apply wood stain to the completed scene. We carefully picked the tones we wanted to use, even mixing them at times. We chose darker tones for the canopy, and lighter tones for the background. It was interesting to see how the stain really emphasized the grain of the wood.
I finished the bloodroot leaves in copper and even added a bloodroot bloom out of aluminum for a different highlight. Then I finished the trillium and added a wild ginger plant in the left corner.
Once everything was in place and the copper elements were complete, it was time to adhere the copper to the wood. We did this by mixing epoxy resin with sawdust and "gluing" each copper leaf and plant. Afterwards, Kerry applied a thin coat of clear epoxy resin to the entire surface to protect the sculpture from outdoor elements.
And finally...here is the finished sculpture propped up outside of Kerry's studio! Kevin Burry built the final frame to install the mural outside the school.
New Brunswick Artist and Art Educator