Driftwood is wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach, of a sea or river, by the action of winds, tides or waves. It often appears white, weathered and rotting. For some people it is simply junk, and often a nuisance. For others it contains a piece of art. As anything else in life, it all depends on what you can see in it. Sculptors see beautiful shapes in stone or other materials; similarly a driftwood artist sees the beauty in the forms of naturally shaped and weathered wood.
Hard to believe for most, but inside most pieces of driftwood lays a beautiful piece of wood with fantastic grain and colors. Lucile Worlund discovered this fact about 40 years ago and created an art form. She was so fascinated by the interesting shapes of driftwood and its inner beauty, that she defined a process to transform it into sculpture, and trademarked unde the name of "LuRon method".
Her method is aimed to remove the weathered part of the wood, scrape and cut off all the dead cells and rotting material, polish it, burnish it with deer antlers and finish it with beeswax or penetrating oils and mount it for display. The result is a clean piece of solid wood which beautiful and complex shape is often the result of the natural sculpting process enhanced by the artists, and which grain, patterns and colors are simply magnificent. The job of the driftwood artist is to find a piece with potential, discover the inner beauty and enhance it to transmit an emotion or a concept. Some examples of LuRon-method sculptures can be seen here.
The method is extremely natural, and it can be carried using simple tools, although you can get very sophisticated. The process is almost a form of meditation that brings you closer to nature and leads you to a journey into the inner beauty of raw natural materials. It’s almost a demonstration of how anything can become a wonderful piece of art, if polished by the hands of a skilled artist.
Driftwood assumes amazing and complex shapes. I have a theory why that is so common. You have to know that most wood has internal tension, and that tension sometimes is very strong; in fact it’s not uncommon that, when you cut a thick piece of wood, the wood snaps or binds the cutting blade as the result of release of that tension. As a piece of driftwood rots from the water or weather exposed layers, it stays solid in the inside. The tension of the inside solid material, overpowers the strength of the rotting material, and starts contorting the whole piece into very interesting shapes.
The LuRon method is native of the Pacific Northwest. The official website for the Northwest Driftwood Artists association, founded by Lucile Worlund, is http://www.geocities.com/northwestdriftwood/. You won’t find much information on this method on the net or in books. The only book that I know talks about LuRon is Driftwood Sculpture: From Finding to Fine Finishing (Paperback), and it’s not easy to obtain. I ordered a copy from amazon 2 months ago, and still waiting for it.
I am currently taking a class on the LuRon method. If you want to know more about it, feel free to ask. I may publish more details.