A Custom Totem for Tommy . . .

Welcome everyone to my blog!!   First let me say that pursuing a career as a professional sculptor has been a dream of mine for over two decades now, and I’m so excited to finally be moving forward on my new adventure. As I continue on this new path I hope to use my blog to give everyone an inside look at my creative process and my techniques, as well as a peek into just what’s going on in my head as I produce my unique & quirky creations.


So let’s get started . . .


When I began sculpting (a long, long time ago) some of my work centered around creating custom pieces to honor the “Specialness” of dear friends and loved ones. You know . . . those personal characteristics, preferences and accomplishments that make us all individuals. Often the person slated to receive one of my “Personalized Totems” had no idea it was coming their way, which made the gift even more endearing and special for me. And the gift I’m highlighting today is no different.


What I’d like to show y’all now is a unique totem I’ve created for my brother-in-law Tommy. Let me just say Tommy is a wonderful person who I greatly revere and I’m very thankful to have him as a part of my family. Although in this case Tommy had some prior knowledge of the totem being created for him.  This in turn gave me an opportunity to ask some very general questions that helped form my creative vision for this piece. Of course his sister Janet (my lovely wife) also had some very insightful input which helped along the way.


Tommy Totem with Smiles


Let’s take a look at who Tommy is and how it’s reflected in his totem . . . After growing up on the banks of the Tualatin River, Tommy moved to the Oregon Coast where he’s experienced a number of careers and passions. In this personal totem I’ve chosen to highlight five aspects of Tommy’s rich life at the top of this totem sculpture. Starting with the large seashell at the top, it serves to represent the environment and community where he’s built his life. And because it’s such an integral & foundational part of who he is, I decided to have all the other totem elements spill forth from the shell’s opening. You may notice in the right-hand image   –  Tommy’s initials ( T  L  B) are proudly displayed, along with some pictographs of my own design which state the following  . . .  ” A / Patient / Loyal / Playful / Honorable / Brother”.


 Tommy Totem 01        Tommy Totem 11        Tommy Totem 02


I’ve included two totem elements to represent Tommy’s love and talents in the performing arts, both as a musician and as an actor. The trumpet signifies his favorite instrument and of course the masks of Comedy & Tragedy stand proudly for his thespian roots. Rounding out the five aspects are wine & champagne bottles and an ice cream cone. The bottles represent his interest in wines and spirits and his years of service with the renowned Salishan Resort as a wine steward. And finishing off with an ice cream cone to represent the long established, wonderfully quaint restaurant he manages at the mouth of Siletz Bay.


 Tommy Totem 08        Tommy Totem 07

Tommy Totem 10        Tommy Totem 09


Now let’s look at the leather work on this piece. I decided to use deer hide for its suppleness and durability. The color choices are pretty straightforward . . . light tan for the sands of the beach; blue for the river and the ocean that have been a part of his life; green for the kelp that often washes up from the sea and the tall fir trees of Northwest Oregon. And a small tuft of white fur to pay homage to the clouds that are a staple of the North Oregon coast.


 Tommy Totem 03


As for the decorative art burnt and/or cut into the wood of the sculpture, the most prominent are the footprints that wind the length of the piece symbolizing quiet walks on the beach. Sand castles, starfish and sea snails also have their place as well as the ever-present Fir trees. Now the slugs are a bit of a different story. My wife Janet  assures me there’s a family joke concerning these slippery creatures, but it’s one of those stories where I guess you just had to be there in order to appreciate it. Although I do know, there were a couple of stories I could’ve brought to life in this piece honoring the role Tommy played in helping me “Manage my Fragile Emotional State” on the day of my wedding some 35-odd years ago . . . but I think those would be better kept in the realm of  “A Wink and a Smile” between the two of us. But Tommy if you read this I just have to say . . . I Love Ya Man!!


Tommy Totem 06        Tommy Totem 04        Tommy Totem 05


So . . . I’ll end it here by saying to my wonderful brother-in-law  . . . I hope this unique sculpture helps others comprehend what a great person you are. And to all those friends, family, comrades and mentors . . . Thank You for your support, patience and encouragement all these years as I’ve grown as a sculptor. Your belief in me truly is the foundation on which I walk as I travel down this new and exciting path.

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