Solitude is a tricky subject for creators. Some want a cup of coffee and an old-fashioned typewriter with the cat perched on the shelf and nothing else. Others need an isolated spot where you might be prone to smash the cell phone if it rings. So there are ranges of needs from just merely having some privacy to needing total sensory deprivation.
I like a rich environment. My eight-foot by twelve carving shop/ greenhouse has my tools, smells of linseed oil, varnish, and wood chips. It has everything I need for carving. I am taken back to shops all over New England that I’ve worked in over the decades. It gives me a mainline connection to my creative roots, and I connect with my masters – the 18th through early 20th century carvers who inspire me and in whose traditions I’ve worked.
As I look over a native pine or cherry piece, I reflect on the job to come. In the case of an eagle, I may think of how my masters approached their work. I am not sure where I got the idea, perhaps from one of them, but after roughing out the shape of the eagle, the first detailed section I do is the eye so the eagle can watch me as I work.
Sometimes I think that I don’t have much isolation at all. It can be noisy with Bellamy telling McIntyre how to carve while Skillin talks to William Rush. It’s why I don’t keep a coffee pot in the shop. I’d never get anything done with the damn racket.