Christian Burchard

Book #7 (2010), bleached & scorched Madrone burl, 12 x 19 x 10inBook #7 (2010), bleached & scorched Madrone burl, 12 x 19 x 10inArtist

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1955, Christian has been living in the United States since 1978. Starting out as a furniture makers apprenticeship in Germany in the middle seventies, he studied sculpture and drawing at the Museum School in Boston then at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver BC.

In 1982 he opened a studio in Southern Oregon. His early focus was on furniture and interiors, but gradually shifted to woodturning and sculpture, moving between vessel oriented forms and sculptural turning. His work has been included in most of the major turning related exhibits of the last twenty something years and is exhibited widely throughout the US. His pieces are part of many public and private collections. His current work includes wall sculptures and freestanding sculptural objects. He is also sought after as a teacher and demonstrator at craft schools and conferences and related turning events. He currently resides with his wife at the outskirts of Ashland, Oregon.

About the Work:

I have been working with wood for most of my life. We are comfortable with each other, have a close relationship and I value the connection immensely. I am curious what is inside, how it works. And I am always looking for the gifts it has to offer. At times I am awed by its beauty, the story of its history (the tracks that the passing of time have left). I am interested in exposing this beauty, to make it shine. At other times I am more interested in its inner structure, its more subtle form and spirit.

I work just about exclusively with Pacific Madrone from the Arbutus family. My favorite parts are the burls that grow within the roots of these trees. They are harvested for the veneer market and I use the rejects from this harvest.

These burls often weigh many thousand pounds. To be able to use them, the dirt and rocks have to be removed, then they can be cut into useable blocks. By working with wet wood with a high water content (up to 20% of it’s volume) and by cutting or turning my forms very thin (to about an 1/8th of an inch) I take advantage of and encourage the changes that occur as the wood dries. As the water evaporates and leaves the cells and the space between the cells, the wood shrinks. Depending on how those cells were aligned in its structure, some very dynamic changes occur.

I work with a variety of tools. The chainsaw is used for most of the wood preparation but also for sculptural pieces. Here the marks that are left are dramatic and forceful. The lathe is used for round forms, mainly in a series I call ‘Baskets’. Tool marks here are subtle and soft.

In my current series of wall sculptures, called ‘Fragments’ and ‘Torsos’ I work with the band saw and a horizontal band saw mill to cut large blocks of Madrone burl into very thin panels. The saw leaves subtle lines across the surface of the wood. I dry these panels slowly over a period of weeks, sometimes months, in a controlled environment, allowing them to take on their final shape, while minimizing the chances of cracking.

When they have finished drying, I sandblast and bleach them. The sandblasting cleans and softens them. Like a lot of my other work, I bleach the panels white, to expose what is within. I compare this to Black and White photography. I remove most of the color to simplify, to focus on the structure and the undulations and textures that occurred through the drying process.

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