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  • Andrea Durnell

Looking Back to Where the Real Journey Started

Bill Hare is a good example of how I find and am inspired by wood. He was also the first rabbit I carved around a dozen years ago when I switched from carving humans to bringing animals to life.

I have been making dolls and selling them in some fashion since the mid-1980s but I have always had to tamp down on all the images I see in nature or in patterns of any kind. I come from

a creative family and I assumed everyone saw what I did. It didn't even occur to me to take my creations to shows once we moved to Pennsylvania 22 years ago. I was still happily raising our daughter. They were either sold through a long chain of followers I denied I ever had, or they were packed away.

But around a decade ago, I met a friend of mine (Maureen Lavorgne) who asked me to help her out at a show and convinced me to apply. I had also been making hats for several years by that time and selling them mostly accidentally by wearing them to coffee shops and yoga class (but they were selling by the dozens so I had an inkling that they would do well at a show and they did)

I don't even know how I got into that first show knowing what I know now about the better juried shows, but years of that stringent application process really helped me to focus my efforts and refine my process as well as start to document my journey. I have learned to trust that if I am juried into a show, I deserve to be there.

Those juries are made up of professionals who have succeeded in each medium. As artists, we don't always have colleagues. We are not a working part of a company with a unified mission and goals and we don't have a boss to give us an annual review or to keep us on track. I have tried to take advice from previous professions along this road to making my art my career. I have looked to the juries to "promote" me along the way by applying only to high-quality shows. This way, my peers have been top professionals in their fields. This helps me to strive to be better each time I pick up my tools. So, it is both fun and useful for me to look back in time and remember how easy it was to drift creatively along with no real aspirations or milestones.

Bill Hare is part of that first focused group that I ever photographed. I have a few candid photos of my early humans but Bill's group is the first time I started to realize that my jury photos needed to tune out the "noise". I began to think of them as school photos in a way and began to treat each year's carvings as a single "menagerie". Bill's group contained a gemsbok, a few horses, a donkey, and a few humans. It took me a number of years to accept that my photos were pretty awful! Another artist friend of mine Paula Cathcart Nettleship told me about Larry Berman and I have happily abandoned photographing my own work ever since other than for daily entertainment.

In line with my creative occupation, I have always liked to dig in the dirt and plant. I wouldn't call myself a gardener because, honestly, I have never gotten very technical about fertilizer, propagating, dividing, and planning. Any success I have is happenstance. So, Bill Hare came about because I was too lazy to pull out my ailing eucalyptus that somehow overwintered for three years in my garden. The topside of the plant provided enough of that pretty grey-green that I left it in place, but the root ball was enormous when we finally had a cold enough winter to kill the plant.

I grabbed the dead sticks and yanked it out of the ground (with great effort as I was too lazy to go get my trowel or a shovel). I held it up and stared at it, then turned it to point root-side up and said, "Well, Bill, THERE you are!" Bill was there in that root ball, ears a bit quizzical and his nose and mouth twisted just slightly in irritation and wonder. I couldn't have unseen him if I'd tried so I cleaned him up and carved his ears. I didn't have to carve a whole lot on his face other than to define his neck and chin.

I hung onto Bill for a number of years, but I did finally let him go home with someone who lives in Virginia close to the others in his "graduating class", Menagerie Number 1.

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