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Materials Inspire: Carving & Culture

On the Use of Expanded PVC for Low-Relief Carvings

Material Roles

One of my more elaborate home remodeling projects involved building a round column embellished with a band of carved PVC.  The results were impressive, and my wife was charmed.  After the successful experience fashioning the column band, I decided to try my hand on expanded PVC sheet.  Once through the firm surface, the interior of sheet EPVC has a density similar to that of soft wood, and due to the consistency of the grain, it is a delight to carve.  The texture of the grain in EPVC makes it possible to color the material, as well.  I found that tiny air pockets would hold dry pigments rubbed into deeper cut areas, whereas the shallow or uncut surface would resist most of the applied color.  This variation in acceptance of color contributes to the unique character of each piece.  While many of the fully-carved low reliefs have been mounted on exotic & domestic hardwoods, creating “plaquesque” wall hangings, several have found alternate use in mold making for cast paper.

World Culture

The original sketches for these carvings freely draw upon fragments of symbolism from a wide range of world cultures, both ancient and modern.  With escalating advances in travel and communication, the world is contracting, and separation becomes more illusory, illuminating the rich diversity of cultures, and the profound commonality of human experience.  For me, this confirms a deep intuition that beyond the surface context of cultural difference, all people have the same basic needs and drives.  My sketches and carvings are based in the conviction that this collective history of world consciousness and human expression makes us the people that we are today, and will shape the world of our future.