Dayton woodcarver has an eye for local trees

Goat, by Jordan Henderson

Goat, by Jordan Henderson

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Editor’s note: Carolyn Henderson, whose bimonthly articles cover the featured artists at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, today writes about her son Jordan. His woodcarving is featured at the gallery through July 26.

DAYTON — Sustainability. It’s contemporary, fashionable, sensible, beautiful.

And for woodcarver Jordan Henderson of JDC Woodcarving, there is an art to doing it right.

“I source all of my wood locally,” the Dayton artist explains. “People contact me regularly to let me know that a tree has blown down, and am I interested in the wood? Sometimes they drive up — in the night — and leave the wood by the studio. It’s an unusual, but pleasant, surprise in the morning, and most of the mystery is figuring out who brought the wood.

He’s acquired unusual pieces for sculpture this way.

“My favorite is locust, but I’ve worked with lilac, cherry, walnut, oak, white pine. We are fortunate to live in an area with a lot of trees,” he said.

From a block of wood, Henderson uses hand and power tools to tease out the animal, or the plant, or Viking warrior, that is hidden there, waiting for him to create it into existence. The son of Dayton painter Steve Henderson, Jordan learned to draw as a child and uses his skill extensively in making preliminary sketches for each piece.

“I study the subject from all sides and perspectives before actually starting to carve,” Henderson explains. “This allows me to make bold, clear shapes and cuts, which I believe are absolutely essential because hesitant shapes and cuts in carving look terrible.

“Wood is a very unforgiving medium,” he continues. “If you make a serious mistake your carving is ruined. The time spent on preliminaries is well worth it if it means that you don’t have to throw out a carving that is three-quarters done.”

His time spent on preliminaries shows. Henderson’s carvings are free-flowing yet accurate in detail, occasionally whimsical yet respectful of their subject. The trees curve as if dancing. The chicken exudes nobility somehow. The bust of an Arikira Indian — based on a photo by Edward Curtis — stares forward with dignity and pride. Each piece expresses the individuality of the subject.

Due to his seasonal day job growing and marketing organic produce for his business, Deer Pond Gardens, Henderson spends the warmer months with a shovel — as opposed to a chisel — in his hand. But summer is also a time when he gets many of his ideas for carving in the winter, he says.

“And in the winter, it’s very enjoyable, sitting by a woodstove, to do the preliminary sketches for sculptures by the fire.

Or poring through seed catalogs. The two facets — gardening and carving — work well together.”

It’s back to that sustainability again, using wood that many people would burn to instead celebrate the world of wildlife, domestic animals, trees, fish and — quite appropriately — a gardener, leaning on a shovel.

“My goal is to create a clear and aesthetically pleasing rendition of the subject, with the aim to cause viewers to also see the beauty of these subjects,” Henderson says.

“The real benefit of wood is its inherent beauty; a woodcarving is not just a way of creating a form, it is also a way to show off the beauty of the wood it is carved from,” he says.

“That’s why it’s so important to have many different types of wood from which to choose, and thanks to the people who keep me in mind when they’re cutting wood, I’ve got that.”

Carolyn Henderson is a freelance writer who with her husband Steve owns Steve Henderson Fine Art. She may be reached at Carolyn@SteveHendersonFineArt.com.

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