Bronzewood Meld

In regard to challenges in life, they say, Necessity is the mother of invention.” I prefer to say, “When there is no road, blaze a trail.” I’ve also found that is usally the scenic route.

Right around the turn of the century, in 2002, my wife came into my studio and asked me a simple question, “Is there a way you can put the bronze with the wood, doing the detail in bronze and joining it to the wood?” She asked this as she brought her hand’s together and inter-laced her fingers. I answered that I would pray about it and instantly the idea of the marriage of wood and bronze into one seamless unit and came to mind. Two sculptures, one wood and one bronze, completing each other in a seamless union not only physically, but joined also completely in design. Lines, planes and forms finding both their source and completion in each other. It was a marriage made in heaven, so to speak, the “Bronzewood Meld”.

The concept opened up a brand new frontier for me. “Bronzewood Meld” as we decided to call it, holds the best of 2 media; it has the strength and repeatability of bronze and the warmth and unique beauty of the wood. Since, I have also incorporated the meld technique using stone and bronze, hence “Stonemeld”.

I find the most tedious part of wood sculpting to be the sanding of the detailed areas, like the eyes. Keeping the hard lines crisp through each of the five grits of sandpaper and leather buffing is tricky. This requires countless tedious hours of tiny focused strokes. Whoever said, “the devil is in the details” had to have sanding in mind.

Another big plus is this technique, Bronzewood Meld, the sanding is done once on the original wood sculpture. Afterward, all that effort is reproduced in the bronze portion of the melds.

Majesty On High
Bronzewood Meld

Bronzewood Meld
Juniper on Mesquite

When in Texas hunting wood especially along the ledges and cliffs of the canyon, I come acorss beautiful, natural sculptures. These tangible expressions of centuries of howling wind, generally lack the mass or thickness to produce a representational wood sculpture, yet now they can be utilized to provide movement, phenominal grain, and graceful planes for a Bronzewood Meld  sculpture.

I am extreme in my “pickiness” when it comes to wood. If I am to spend the effort carrying it out of the canyon then 600 miles back to Colorado, not to mention countless hours working it into the sculpture, it had better be “gem quality wood”. Even the mesquite must meet certain criteria before I will harvest it. This weed of a tree is not native to Texas, if left to its own devices, it is prone to turn fertile rangeland into a grass starved thorn jungle. In their efforts to control its takeover, the ranchers “grub” the trees out, using massive chains drug between bulldozers. The trees are subsequently gathered into huge piles and burned.

The burls at the root of the tree are often preserved from the fire by the soil that encases them. Over the decades, wind, rain and cattle scatter the remains across the pastures. Fungus moves into the center of the burl and slowly eats away the straight grain, leaving a hollow of beautiful bird’s eye grain pattern. Termites move in and strip away the softer pale sapwood, exposing the dense rich heartwood that subsequentially darkens even blackens with age. Wind, sun and rain work toegether to paint a variety of gray patinas. These beautiful hollow forms of prime wood peek out from beneath tangled masses of living Mesquite or low stands of prickly pear cactus.

Then starts the treasure hunt, hiking through these pastures looking for specific shapes and sizes.  Maybe one out of ten gets turned over, one in twenty picked up and examined and of those, maybe one out of ten gets carried to the truck. As a side note, one out of ten of the nice big burls, contains a black widow nest and on, admittedly rare occassion, a rattlesnake. I carry with me a list of specific shapes to keep an eye out for (ie: hollow burls for owls, wall mount falcon melds, large and small, cross back drops, bases for juniper melds, etc.)

In summary, the Bronzewood Meld is a process, one often started centuries ago, worked on by wind, rain and ice, then sought out and brought to life in its marriage to bronze. The process of actually melding them together is a long series of technical steps involving nuts, bolts, welding and more than a few proprietary secrets.

Since bronze is so dense it is often difficult to counterbalance its mass, so I have employed petrified wood and stone to accomplish that task. I still prefer to be consistent in every component of a sculpture, so I seek out “gem quality” beauty in the stone as well. The petrified wood and alabaster I hunt down in the canyons of West Texas. The Marra Mamba Tiger Eye stone is mined in the outbacks of Australia. The density of the hematite (iron ore) that frames the veins of the tiger eye, provides an excellent counter balance a beautiful compliment to both the bronze and wood.

So you see, these sculptures don’t just grow on trees”, so to speak, they are each a uinique one-of-a-kind expression of wood, bronze, stone and soul, with an entire frontier of beauty to both convey and explore.

Bronzewood Meld - Grip of God
Grip of God 
Bronzewood Meld

Press Release written by Myrna I. Zantell

Colorado sculptor J. Christopher White astounded crowds at Loveland’s 2002 “Sculpture in the Park” Exhibition by unveiling an innovative sculptural concept he recently developed by co-mingling the ancient mediums of wood and bronze. While wood and bronze have frequently been presented side-by-side in sculpture, White has done a stunning job of blending the two into a new medium which he has christened a “bronze-wood meld”.

Colorado sculptor J. Christopher White astounded crowds at Loveland’s 2002 “Sculpture in the Park” Exhibition by unveiling an innovative sculptural concept he recently developed by co-mingling the ancient mediums of wood and bronze. While wood and bronze have frequently been presented side-by-side in sculpture, White has done a stunning job of blending the two into a new medium which he has christened a “bronze-wood meld”.”Determined”, his eye catching rendition of a peregrine falcon in a dive, caused the show audience to do a double take – is it wood or bronze?

The transition point between wood and bronze was nearly imperceptible due to the artist’s ability to take the wood deep into the bronze sculpture, and the skill of the patiniere to reproduce the weathered grays of rough wood.  White’s tasteful use of high Polish and contrasting rugged grays (in his wood sculptures), builds a platform to launch the illusion of bronze turning into wood. The result is a sculpture with the durability and repeatability of bronze, and the warmth and one-of-a-kind uniqueness of wood.

“You really got the best of both mediums and the added intrigue of having your eye fooled”, White commented. The Loveland crowd was clearly awed by this new  sculptural medium. White said, “It really was fun to watch people scrutinize the work, narrow their eyes and begin to examine the piece more closely. After running my finger along the precise boundaries of the bronze and wood; and often repeating, “No, this part is bronze, and “Yes, this segment is wood”, people would smile a wondering smile and ask “How did you do that?”. It was an exciting way for me to interact with the crowd because more often than not at the end of the conversation the newly educated would grab a friend and challenge them to point out where the bronze ended or began.

Over the two decades that White has been sculpting professionally, the artist has built a national reputation for unique wood images fashioned from West Texas juniper this is highly polished to achieve the glowing golden hue inherent in a Tiger Eye stone. White explained, “Although I thoroughly enjoy working in wood, the medium has limited my ability to produce sufficient sculptures to satisfy the growing demand for my work. ‘The advantage of this new medium is that it allows me to produce multiple images while retaining the one-of-a-kind value collectors are seeking.”

The sculptor emphasizes that in addition to melding the juniper and bronze together the mesquite base in itself is also an art form, its lines working with and flowing into the lines of the falcon. Also, the rich, gray wood tones of the mesquite are incorporated into the patina of the bronze creating an overall blend which makes it nearly impossible to discern wood from metal. White is already creating additional images and is excited about the challenges posed by each new idea. You can find White’s falcon image, “Determined”, and dozens of the artist’s other exquisitely executed wood sculptures, on his web site:

Press Release written by Myrna I Zantell, 8/17/02

Share This