Sculpted Mixed Media "Object-de-Art", or a Large Tortilla Chip Party Bowl on a Display Stand

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 04-12-2009 03:42 AM 2726 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch


Free Form Walnut Bowl & Stand

Dimensions and Specs:
- Length: 23 inches
- Width: 12 inches
- Height: 7 inches
- Wood: Kansas Flint Hills Black Walnut
- Antler: Kansas Whitetail Deer natural Shed
- Base: Burled Kansas Flint Hills Black Walnut

If you like this sort of project, I have another one, Click here to see it



Project Story:

Some times I just surprise myself that I manage to get out of bed. Really.

And when I do get out, I surprise myself that I manage anything else.

Now, you know.

I have planned and finished projects that I’ve piddled with all this year, trying to finish some of them this week for a private Art Show tonight (Saturday).

Normally, my work is mostly commissioned items, and so when I am asked to do a grouped presentation, the pickings of things laying around the house and shop are pretty slim.

I’ve been trying to change that by preparing a few things all year, and work on them a little at a time, and try out some new concepts and see where they take me.

For these types of Art Show events I like to try new things, stretch what people have come to expect from me, and use the time to refresh my own creativity, which can wane after doing repeated orders of the same, or similar, items.

I like paid work, but a guy just wants to try something new once in awhile. At least I do, often, maybe too often. Maybe it’s just adult ADD, and not my fault at all?

For the project this time it was Sculpted Freeform Vessels.

Scott Shangraw is a master at sculpted freeform Vessels, and I have admired his work so much, that I finally asked him how to do it. He told me, and I was off looking for wood to try it.

Ok, and so I was pretty excited to unveil the “Objects-de-Art” at the Art Show tonight and see what people think about them.

So, about 1:30 pm today, after spending until Midnight last night cutting out brochures and business cards, and spending the morning tying on little laminated tags and scratching my head about what to charge for each item, and a quick dash to the Church to finish up a project before the Easter Service tomorrow, I was finally ready to load the Yukon.

So, I’m headed quickly by the refrigerator to pack up the Yukon to head to the show, when I just by chance, glance at the calendar on the front of the Fridge. Written in my own scribbles on the 18th, is “Art Show”.

Screeeech. UGH!

That’s next week, what was I thinking?

I stopped, looked with that perplexed “Mark” look, and couldn’t hardly believe that I had been so far off.

Now, you know.

I never much trust my own notes, or administrative efforts, so I dashed to the computer to check the emails, and sure enough it is the 18th.

I had written it down correctly, just didn’t act that way. I even told another artist about it, and convinced him to bring his stuff on the 18th. And then planned like a crazy man…..on the 11th. Ugh.

So, I’m ready a week early.

Hey don’t laugh, I once flew out on a plane to a Job Interview at a huge Aerospace company, with my Power-Suit Jacket in my bag neatly folded, but with my Suit Pants left hanging on the back of my bedroom door. Power Suit Coat, Faded Blue Jeans, Dressy Tasseled Loafers. And surprisingly, I didn’t get a job offer from that one.

Another job interview, I carefully made sure I had the suit pants that time, but discovered when I arrived at about 10:00 pm at my hotel room, that I had another problem. I had left my ironed white dress shirt hanging above the ironing board, at home.

I had the silk tie, and the white undershirt. That was way back before Walmart was open all night, so I couldn’t take a Taxi and go buy a dress shirt. So, I sheepishly called my host for the interview and explained the problem.

He was a take-charge type of guy, and quickly sized me up, came to get me in his car, and hauled me over to another co-worker’s house, who’s husband wore a shirt in my size.

When we arrived at her house a little before midnight, she was standing in the utility room ironing me her husband’s shirt. But, that wasn’t bad enough, she had arrived earlier that evening from the hospital after giving birth to her first child. What a lady, huh?

How do you say “thanks” for that one?

I did get that job.

Ok, back to today….with my scheduling mistake, I spent the rest of the afternoon fixing the mysteriously broken turn signal on the Yukon (bulb loose), and photographing the stuff I made for the Art Show.

Then, I took some time to write up a little blog about Ants and Fire that I came up with this week, and just enjoyed the new feeling of being ready for something ahead of time.

A new feeling, and I like it.

All of my pasture-tending neighbors are burning off their pastures today, and so the resulting smoke has sort of killed my sinuses, has my eyes sore, and has given me a headache, which all has just about killed my desire to turn out any more work in the shop today.

So, I’ll just post some stuff to LJ tonight instead.

Which brings me to the Sculpture pieces.

A couple of months back, I showed one of my new freeform “Objects-de-Art” I was experimenting with, to some friends, just to guage their response. I like to get feedback from people that care about me, and want me to succeed, and will tell me the truth.

It was interesting getting the feedback, and it was clearly evident that if a budding Kansas Sculptor is going to make something Freeform for Kansans to appreciate, it better have a FUNCTION!

“What is it?” one of them asked.

“It’s just an Object, just freeform sculpture, supposed to just be Art,” I replied.

“Would make a nice serving bowl if it would sit up straight, could hold some chips for a party,” I was told.

I had to agree.

So, my Sculpture became a “Bowl” pretty quickly that night, and my Artsy-Fartsy notions of just creating an “Object” were lost in the name of “Function.”

So much for Art, maybe another time.

We are practical people here on the Tall Grass Prairie.

And the experience was another reminder of “The Potato Salad Bowl Story.”

Here’s that Story:
A master of woodturning from Sedona called me on the phone one day in the early Summer of 1999 after seeing one of my mixed-media Scrimshaw pieces at the house of his friend.

He called to offer some free advice, and to share some of the wisdom gained from his many years working in the decorative art world. I hurriedly took notes and tried to remember every word he uttered.

His first suggestion was for me to move.

“Move where?” I asked.

“Why not Sedona?” he asked me.

“But why?” I went on naively.

“Go where you want to, but get out of the Mid-West…they are too practical, those people there just don’t buy Art for Art’s sake,” he told me.

I grew up in Kansas, as did he, but I don’t really know what other people are like, much anyway. I lived in Louisiana for a few years, and those folks loved art, and food, and dancing, and eating what we call fish bait in Kansas, and it was great fun there. Still, I didn’t stay and returned to home.

So, I questioned him further about the peole of the Mid-West, and then he told me his “Potato Salad Bowl Story.”

That story really helped me understand exactly what he was trying to say.

He said that he showed his work in Kansas City one time, still trying to make a go of it in the Mid-West. He was juried into the big old town Plaza art and craft show in old KC, and set up his booth. One of his objects was a lathe turned Vessel, about the size of a big bowl you’d serve food in.

A nice lady walked up, and admired his turned Vessel.

She picked the Vessel up with both hands and turned back over her shoulder to ask her husband, “Fred, how much Potato Salad do you think this bowl will hold?”

Fred was looking at something else in another booth, and just responded, “How am I supposed to know? If you like it, just get it.”

The lady, still holding the bowl while bouncing the weight of it up and down a little, said, “well, I guess it is big enough to hold my Potato Salad, it’s only $39.00.”

The Master Turner reached forward to take the bowl out of her hand, and said, “Ma’am, that Vessel is $3,900.00”

“What!” screamed the Lady flabbergasted.

“Why in the world would I pay $3,900.00 for a bowl to put Potato Salad in?” she went on.

“You wouldn’t,” said the Master Turner, and with that he lifted the Vessel out of her hands and placed it carefully back on the display table.

The Lady left the situation obviously offended, with Fred in tow.

The Master Turner said that it was at that moment he decided that he needed to move out of Kansas, and after his move to Sedona, his career blossomed.

And, so that was his main advice to me. “Move.”

And also to stop doing Mixed-Media since it is hard to categorize and jury into the big shows with.

I didn’t move, and I’m still doing Mixed-Media, but I think it was great advice.

Now, you know.

So, when my friends felt that my “Object-de-Art” needed to be a Bowl for the table, like something you’d put Tortilla Chips in for a party, I understood completely.

thanks for reading along,
Mark DeCou

(this writing, photos, and project design are protected by copyright 2009, but the Author, M.A. DeCou, all rights reserved).

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

15 comments so far

View bigwoodturner's profile


231 posts in 3339 days

#1 posted 04-12-2009 03:52 AM

Very nice lines and layout in this piece.

-- Dale

View bamasawduster's profile


321 posts in 3588 days

#2 posted 04-12-2009 04:12 AM

Awesome bowl, Mark, and you’re right, Scott carves a mean bowl. RusticElements does too. He’s the one who laid out the process for me. I’m still in the learning stage and one of these days I’m gonna get around to doing some larger bowls. Have a larger bandsaw on order and hope to get typical spring projects out of the way soon.

I really like the base you made for the bowl. Neat idea. Love the story too. Look forward to more of your work. I am so thankful for this site and all the artists who are patient with us newbies in woodworking.

-- Gary, Huntsville. Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4394 days

#3 posted 04-12-2009 04:25 AM

Great Mark. A potato salad bowl. What a story. Good luck on your objet d’art. bowl.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View savannah505's profile


1813 posts in 3580 days

#4 posted 04-12-2009 05:42 AM

Great looking piece, nice flowing design.

-- Dan Wiggins

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3238 posts in 3706 days

#5 posted 04-12-2009 05:43 AM

Nice bowl, Mark, but is it dishwasher safe?? ;-)

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

499 posts in 3776 days

#6 posted 04-12-2009 12:32 PM

Wonderfull piece and, as usuall, an informative story to go along with it. Too true about MidWestern buyers. A man I respect and has been in the buisness of selling studio furniture for a long time once told me that the midwestener needs to “make love” to a piece before actually bringing it home. They have to meet the piece (& you), think it over, talk to their friends about the piece (& you), be sure the piece will “wow” their friends and then justify the “outrageous” price your asking. Sometimes it will take them several years of seeing your work at sucessive shows before they will “pull the triger” & open the wallet. He also said the “East Coasters” , for the most point, recognize quality work and are experienced enough to understand your pricing and that “West Coasters” live for today & are used to spending large sums of money to have something that their neighbors and friends wish they could have or afford.


View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3761 days

#7 posted 04-12-2009 03:16 PM

I’m confused. Even after reading your story, I still do not see a bowl.

Beautiful creation, Mark. You have created some wonderful movement in this piece. I don’t think we are in Kansas any more, Toto.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4063 days

#8 posted 04-12-2009 03:26 PM

Mark great job on the Vessel.I love the story I get it all the time at art shows about my bowls I get about 10 comments everyday “can I put food in it”I want to answer “if you check clears you can put anything you want in your $500-$2000 salad bowl”so we get the same comments out here in the west.But over all I think most people can appreciate a carved bowl.Let us know how they are received at the show.I like the base idea I have been trying to come up w/ different bases for my large” top heavy” peices.Its funny on that dishwasher safe comment I was actually at a show next to a wood turner that had a customer bring back a bowl she purchased to have him fix it because she ran it through the dishwasher I tried my best not to bust out laughing.Anyway great job be aware carving bowls gets addictive !!

-- Scott NM,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4000 days

#9 posted 04-12-2009 03:35 PM

In real estate they say its location, location, location. In art it has to be venue, venue, venue.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View dan mosheim's profile

dan mosheim

240 posts in 3683 days

#10 posted 04-12-2009 03:51 PM

I like EVERYTHING about this post, especially the object. I’ve used a few bits of recycled animals in my work too, antlers, bones and piano keys, and there’s something that makes me feel just a little better about whatever it was that died in the process. Nice piece, nice story, nice writing, nice that you’re ready for the show a week ahead of time …. good luck with it … dan
ps … before I posted this I went back and checked some of your other posts and your website .. great work, all of it … no prairie grass grows under your feet man ….

-- dan,vermont,

View LSJ's profile


89 posts in 3347 days

#11 posted 04-12-2009 04:00 PM

Now I have to drag out the antlers for a new project. Great work.

-- I like to turn

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4308 days

#12 posted 04-12-2009 04:05 PM

Your story makes me want to give up art and sell Tuperware. Beautiful work!

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3716 days

#13 posted 04-13-2009 02:27 AM

I like functional art, but then again, I just like art.

You could use my canes to play crochet, but I would cringe if you did.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Jon3's profile


497 posts in 4099 days

#14 posted 04-16-2009 04:37 PM

Gosh for $7.95, I’m going to have to demand a matching salsa bowl. ;)

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 3736 days

#15 posted 04-16-2009 07:52 PM

Do you ever sleep? When do you find time to create all these works of art?

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

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