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One Month to Carve a Figurehead?

That was the challenge that faced Harry Alsman and Kelley Stadelman this past summer, when Harry was commissioned to carve a four foot tall ship's figurehead in just four short weeks. The figurehead was commissioned to be displayed in a new home at the Hillsboro, Or. Street of Dreams. The Street of Dreams is an annual event where home builders, show off new homes with the latest in technology and design. They are then open to the public to view for one month and expect from 10,000-100,000 visitors. The 9 homes are available for sale and range in price from approx. $800,000.00-$1,200,000.00 or more.

The builder of one of the homes contacted Harry on Saturday June 2nd. She wanted a figurehead to hang prominently above the fireplace and the piece had to be completed by the 5th of July. Harry accepted the challenge. Excitedly he told Kelley about the job and was quickly asked by Kelley if she could help. Harry gladly accepted her help, knowing that he would need help to meet the aggressive deadline. Kelley drew up a quick sketch of the idea that Harry had in mind and the builder accepted it on sight.

The next morning Harry bought some clay (100 lbs. were used) and he and Kelley modeled their figure to the dimensions of the finished carving. Monday morning Harry started to work surfacing, gluing and clamping the sugar pine selected for the project. Most of the carving was done at Kelley's studio, the Heritage Arts Studio in North Plains, Or. (503)647-0892, and the Hillsboro Tuesday Market, where Harry sets up a booth to promote woodcarving.

Working on the clay model - June 3 The finished clay model - June 4

Early Stages in Roughing Out Progress on June 12

Progress on June 24 Detailing the end grain on the base

Detail of the end grain on the base The Lady's Head

Torching the Lady The Result

To finish the carving Kelley and Harry chose to burn the surface of the wood to draw out the grain for a weathered look. They then used light washes of gray and brown acrylic paint, which were lightly sanded through in random places to further enhance the weathered appearance. (Kelley was a decorative painter before taking up carving.) Her experience and talent in this area really put the "finishing" touch on the Lady.

The Lady with final finish applied Note how the grain is enhanced by the torching


Finally, after countless hours, slivers, blisters and aching muscles, the carving was finished on the 4th of July, delivered on the 5th and hung above the fireplace on the 6th.


More photos are available at:

Harry Alsman's website www.woodcarvingworld.com (under projects) and at
Kelley Stadelman's website www.heritageartstudio.com (under "Figurehead").