Our family has a deep respect for and appreciation of the beaver. Beavers are amazing creatures who play an important part in the environment and help it to thrive by creating new habitats and ecosystems for multiple species. So, it made sense that our passion for beavers would eventually inspire us in our artwork.
This is how it started. Jillian decided to create a beaver diorama. She became quite absorbed in the details. As you can see, there would be an underwater scene as well as a land scene above the water line. The beginnings of a beaver felling a tree is in the upper left corner. Fish will live in the beaver pond and the splash of the tail is forming on the water.
Jillian carved logs to look beaver chewed. We loved this concept for pilasters. Initially, the design began in a different direction, but then we decided to entertain the idea of the cabinet being somewhat in the shape of a beaver lodge. Fitting, we thought.
Here is the start of the doors. Ryan developed this design with the thought that beavers create tunnels in and out of the ponds and lodges. The circular area represents the opening to the “lodge”.
Ryan worked with cherry burls to create layering and an anchor point for the pilasters. We used some textural tamarack bark for the sides and planned on pulling that same detail up into the top section of the piece.
One of the pilasters set in place to figure out where they would best look. So much planning of the details. If one element looks off balance, the piece won’t be a success. Burls create the skirt like base.
You can see where the top of the cabinet once was more open. That changed. In the business of creating art furniture, changes occur–trial and error, even when you create the basic design on paper or Sketch Up. We all scrutinize, and decide on what needs to be added or to left out. Sometimes, we try to resist changing something we aren’t totally happy with, but eventually we come to grips with the fact that the work done earlier must be deconstructed for the success of the piece.
Now we are reconfiguring the top–developing the new shape. We’ve decided on small drawers instead of doors.
Jillian carved the bow front drawer to look like a poplar log. The “chewed” branch nubs will be handles. Should there be two handles evenly spaced we asked. The answer was multiples, risking some balance, but throwing in something unexpected.
Now the piece is taking on somewhat of a beaver lodge shape. The twig work on the drawers is coming along, but still so much to get accomplished. We are pushed to complete this speculation piece in time for the Adirondack Museum’s Rustic Fair. The clock is ticking and we still have commission pieces to complete.
Twig work on the doors, but they want something to frame the circular area. We called on Jillian to come up with branch work and leaves.
Here are the doors nearly completed (but upside down). You can now see the beautiful bird’s eye maple that Ryan chose. The bird’s eye maple was also used in the top here and there. We never want one random element if possible. The designs need to transition to other areas.
The lighting was trickier than we had anticipated. The initial choice was strip lighting, but it cast too much bright light and the intent of the carver was to have the light stream through the “water” as sunlight would stream down into the depths of the pond.
During the evening, the beaver lighting is probably quite indicative of the lighting under the murky water of the beaver pond. To house the light, we found just the right burl, cut it and hollowed it out, added our LED light for coolness, and, when it cast the perfect light–we breathed a sigh of relief.
We attached the flattened burl to cherry lumber so light wouldn’t escape around the sides and create chaos. The branches holding up the final roof were pulled from an abandoned beaver dam. The tops are chewed by the beaver as are the handles on the piece.
So much thinking, planning and, of course, attention to detail helped create our beaver inspired cabinet. The base has cubbies for wine storage to give it some more functionality. We were honored to win the People’s Choice award at the 2017 Rustic Fair–thanks to this piece, the beaver, and our family’s love of art.