Damaged from California wildfires, charred trees are given a new breath of life thanks to artist Don Madison.
Don Madison knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity. After the cedar forest on his property was destroyed by California wildfires, so was his family's dream to build a log home in the lush surroundings. A background in sculpting — a craft he began around age 15 and in which he is completely self-taught — inspired him to reclaim the lost trees and carve them into pieces of art. "The fire turned us around, it didn't stop us," says Don. "While it was tough for a while after, we've been able to rise from the ashes. It's very rewarding to be able to give the trees a second life."
Though friends joke that he's crazy or been in the sun too long, Don can look at a piece of wood and have visions of the art it will become. "Sometimes I get into carving the wood and instead of an eagle, I'll see a sleeping fawn, so I just go with it," he says. "It's like magic — I don't try to force it — eventually it will come together, even though it might take two or three pieces of wood before I find the right one." As testament to the wildfires the trees endured, Don leaves a scorched area on all his creations. "It's a signature of sorts — evidence that not all the wood was destroyed," Don says.
California Incense Cedar consumed much of the forest on Don's property, and has become his favorite wood to work with. "I love the way it carves, smells and finishes," he says. Occasionally, he'll also use Redwood Sequoia and Black Walnut. To protect the wood, Don adds cedar or tung oil, which richens, preserves and deepens the color of the piece.
Growing up, Don lived right by the San Diego Zoo, and developed an interest in animals at a young age. "I've always noticed nature and beauty. I was fascinated with how things were created and was driven to recreate them." He recalls one raccoon mantel he carved that actually scared a cat. "I took that as I compliment," Don says with a laugh. Ultimately, with nature as his driving force, his goal is to create something lifelike and real.
Stocking mantels begin at $200, mantels at $500 and tables at $2000. For more information, call 760-765-2145 or visit cedarmtnproducts.com.