Photo caption: Shane Christensen with a wood carving known as “tree spirit” which he carved from a fallen young blue gum tree. The work doubles as a home for stingless native honey bees. Photo: Richard Bruinsma
By Richard Bruinsma
It’s not unusual for wood carvers to assess a block of timber for its colour, grain and smell, but Maroochy River artisan Shane Christensen also chooses timber that has the right sound too.
Mr Christensen first started carving fallen trees 20 years ago, into the shapes the timber itself seems to suggest is just right.
Together, the many attributes of the timber – including its sound – determines the success and resilience of the finished carved work of art.
“You can look at the timber and smell the timber, but you can also learn a lot by listening to the timber,” Mr Christensen said.
“If I kick a log and if the sound rings, you know there’s no cracks in it; if it sounds dull, it has a crack.”
Maroochy River woodcarver Shane Christensen in action with a fallen tree branch. Photo: Richard Bruinsma
Mr Christensen is a jack of all trades when to comes to his work – he has a background in the environmental industry, and is skilled at tree stump carving and garden sculptures, garden maintenance and creating works of art that double as habitat.
“That’s one of my favourites, actually; it combines my years in conservation industry and the creative side,” he said.
He uses fallen trees, old fence posts and the like. One of his latest works is one he calls “tree spirit”, created from a fallen young blue gum that was carved into an abstract human, complete with tree roots fashioned into hair and a mouth big enough for a feather tail glider or a micro bat; he later modified the work and reduced the size of the entrance hole to suit a stingless native bee.
“It’s practical art, which is a bit of a paradox, but something can live in it.”
The 37 year old plies his trade mostly from a rustic outdoor “workshop” on a quiet secluded property that fronts the river at Maroochy River.
He has created numerous carvings for homeowners on the coast and has also fashioned is own wooden drums and a plank chair.
Caption: Shane Christensen representing the Sunshine Coast at a carving event at New Caledonia last year. Photo: Shane Christensen
He also learned some carving tips last year from a master carver from Vanuatu, who showed techniques with the most basic carving tools. While there, he represented the Sunshine Coast at a sculpture festival in New Caledonia, where he carved a pole in a giant Farè (grass hut) to represent and display our local coast icons.
He first started the craft at around 17, in Bundaberg, when skilled carver Arthur Nobby Clark took him under his wing to teach him how to read timber and also use some of the traditional carver’s tools.
“He had a lot of the old skills, made some of his own tools,” Mr Christensen explained.
“He just kind of showed me through the processes, showed me how to use some chiselling techniques and to use the tools.”
Mr Christensen later left woodcarving and learned about airbrushing and the Sunshine Coast surf art culture, but the new skills came to be useful when he later came back to his timber work.
Caption: A set of drums created using hollowed out logs and stretched cow hide, as well as a plank chair, both created by Shane Christensen. Photo: Richard Bruinsma.
Today, he uses airbrushing to add natural-looking timber stains to his work, to give the impression of a deeper cut while allowing the timber to retain strength.
“I’ve combined a few skills there, and it really helps to give more depth without carving too deep into the timber.”
It all helps him to work with the environment and use his artistic skills to play a role in providing attracting carved works of art that also help protect our valuable native wildlife.
“It suits the Sunshine Coast; with all the urban development and loss of habitat, people can put them in the garden and replace some of the missing habitat.”