Carved Doorway

Almost twenty years ago, the owners of SOLO approached me about making an unusual doorway for the main lodge of the school. They were going to enclose a small porch to make an entryway and they were interested in having a unique entrance door that would compliment the lodge. Because of the large scale of the building, we needed something that would be both bold and compliment the natural wood of the exterior. After much discussion, we decided on a large scale, deeply carved doorjamb, left to naturally weather. The next step was to decide on the nature of the design that I would carve.
           We talked about many ideas and sifting through the different suggestions, we ended up with two predominant influences. One was the carvings and the doorways of traditional Haida lodges from the Pacific Northwest; the other was the doorway carvings of Old Norse wooden halls. It sounds like a strange marriage of influences but I saw many themes in common, both cultures produced designs that are filled with organic elements, and both have traditions wherein doorways are symbolize transition and are more than just a way in and out of a shelter. Moreover, while these two cultures are separated by time and a polar icecap, they each developed similar techniques of deep relief carving that read well from a distance.
           I spent time working these ideas out on paper and bouncing them off Lee and Frank, who own SOLO, to see what they liked. I found one of my sketches, so you can see some of the earlier ideas we played with.

Ideas for Solo Dorway

           The final design came together and I spent several days building the doorjamb out of slabs of pine four inches thick and almost twenty inches wide; then began the carving process. As I carved the doorway over the next few weeks, SOLO students would come out between classes to watch me work. Normally I do not like working with an audience, but I found that answering their questions helped me to clarify my own ideas and so this too became a part of the creative process for this project.
           The actual carving was done with simple tools; two sizes of knife, three sizes of paring chisel, a drawknife, a mallet, and a large slick.
           When the time came, there were plenty of willing hands to muscle the doorway into place.

Moving the Solo doorway into place

           Part of what I find so intriguing about the creative process is how people react to your work. That reaction reveals so much about how we as individuals relate to change and ideas that are new to us. The doorway at SOLO has proven to be an excellent example of this, while the predominant reaction has always been positive, there have also always been a small percentage of people who don’t like it. In some cases to the point where first time visitors arrive at the school, take one look at the front door, and immediately try to find some other way into the building. I find this fascinating and surprising, and I suppose that in it self is revealing.

The new doorway

           I have fond memories of this project, and now that it has been in place for nineteen years, I am particularly impressed with how well it has held up. I also feel that by creating this entrance I was able to contribute something to a school and community that have always meant a lot to me.

Main Classroom Building SOLO

The Doorway today

If you are interested in finding out more about the SOLO community check out their new blog SOLO Adventures.


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