Carving a connection between the mountains and the sea
Curls of wood fly off the lathe as a bowl begins to form at the hands of Clay County artisan Joe Waldroup. A native of Hayesville for as long as he can remember, he did woodworking as a hobby. In 2010, he turned to woodwork full time, producing most of his work on a lathe, spinning various woods to form bowls or vases. For these spun pieces, he uses various local hardwoods, with a preference for maple and cherry.
Waldroup also makes sculpture, usually from driftwood or other gnarly pieces of wood. His sculptures are interpretations of nature, preferring animal and fish forms. He says he is always looking for trees, especially ones that have burls on them. Using wood mostly from North Carolina, the sculptor expresses a connection with nature. “There’s something about a lot of the wood that I get, out of the mountains especially. Things like the rhododendron root burls, when I work with those, it always seems that there’s a connection with the ocean and the mountains.”
With his home in the mountains, he says that the wood burl looks like shells. “It’s a way of connecting both ends of the state from the east to the west.”
The wood’s natural twists and curves inspire his unique pieces. No two pieces are the same because no two pieces of wood are the same. In 2016, North Carolina’s Our State magazine held a contest in which artists submitted their work and the public voted for the best. Waldroup won this statewide contest with “Mountain Shells,” a piece carved from a rhododendron root burl from a place close to his mountain home.
Perhaps the public recognized their shared artistic philosophy. “Every individual should have access to art and culture in their daily lives. It’s our goal to provide a medium between art enthusiasts and the artists themselves.”
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