Humble Beginnings Though you’d never know it by looking at his intricate designs, it’s completely accidental that James Andison began sculpting wood. He always had an interest in the art, so one day he picked up some scraps of wood and tools (think wire cutters and pruning shears) with the intention of building a log-cabin birdhouse. “It looked awful,” James professes. “I guess my wife took pity on me, because she surprised me with my first set of chisels for my birthday.” Soon after, a chance meeting with a real estate agent ended in a job carving a totem pole for a local builder’s show home. Now, aside from creating vertical art, he produces pieces such as tables, mantels and masks.
Behind the Scenes When customers approach James about commissioning a piece, it’s sort of a mutual interviewing process. Since James relies on religious or cultural themes, he inquires about their heritage to generate a story and ideas. He then composes a drawing of his vision so a client can give feedback. “I love those who are passionate and involved in the design process,” says James. Since he often works with log and timber home companies, builders, and architects, he adheres to strict deadlines. Because of that, James switched from chisels to air tools and grinders. “It virtually cuts my time in half,” he says.
Material Matters James is very thorough when choosing his medium. “I don’t just go and pick a log. I have to tell suppliers exactly what I’m looking for, then I go and visually inspect it,” he says. He is also specific on the moisture content of the logs. “When put in an arid house, the wood will crack some with the humidity. So, I only choose logs with 15 percent moisture content to minimize cracking,” he says.
Inspiration Point Without hesitation, James names Mother Nature as his favorite artist. “I love conjuring ideas of how to duplicate her creations,” he says. It also helps that he’s surrounded by his main influence, as he lives in a timber home on 32 acres of forest. Of course, his client’s heritage is also an inspiration.
Buy It Generally, totem poles start at $1,000 per foot, tables are $10,000 and up and a four-foot mask begins at $3,500. For more information, call 250-551-5068 or visit sweetwood.ca.