Functional Wood Ensemble

Submitted by Gene Delcourt

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Client: Private

Location: Madison, WI, United States

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $21,000

Project Team

Artist

Gene Delcourt

Sweet Medicine Studio

Photography and Graphics

Stacy Levin

Earth Silks

Overview

This ensemble is a collection of four commissioned functional objects.

1. “Rest In Peace:” A casket with 14 carved symbols from around the World, each meaning PEACE.
2. “Henry’s Bench:” A bench, built in honor of a friend and former student who past away.
3. “Paper Or Plastic?…Neither:” A market basket built for an environmentally conscious consumer.
4. “Horse Head Fiddle:” A whimsical violin, made for an Old Time fiddler.

This project demonstrates the variety of functional objects that I have created in wood. From hand carved Violins to Metal Free Caskets to a beautiful Willow Baskets, and a Commemorative Bench adorning a Green Cemetery.

Goals

My goal in integrating these kinds of pieces into this project revolves around public perceptions of these types of functional pieces. A casket should be artistic, reflecting the character of the deceased. I believe that it's perfectly appropriate that a violin be whimsical. Beauty and function makes life more interesting, adventurous and present. Baskets can be more than the sum of their parts. Using a basket that is handmade, to the specifications of the user, for shopping at the supermarket can be an enriching experience. It can suggest to others that "paper or plastic?" may not be the only choice we, as consumers, have. It is a choice that doesn't have ramifications for the planet. When you cut a willow strand, two grow out of the stump.

Process

I was commissioned by private citizens to make all of the featured pieces. When making caskets, I meet with the client and discuss what types of wood will best express the sentiments of the deceased. Fo instance, if they were peaceful, we might choose cedar for the highlights. If they were strong leaders, we might choose oak or hickory.
The same idea when deciding what species of wood would be used for the accessory pieces for a violin (Finger board, tailpiece, pegs and chin rest.)
A basket's design is determined by its' purpose. Will it be large and round to be used as a market basket, oval and deep for carrying a baby, shallow and small for harvesting flowers or greens.

Additional Information

I am an Abenaki. We're the people that the Anishinaabe refer to as "The Eastern Door Keepers." We come from the States of Northern New England and also from Quebec, Canada. My own people (on my Father's side) are from the Abenaki of Quebec. I refer to my Studio as "Sweet Medicine Studio" because I find making art and viewing art as therapeutic. It heals the soul. Thus, sweet medicine. I also find that the music made by the instruments I make (though not only the ones I make!) to be calming and therapeutic. My caskets, however (on project #3,) are labeled under the moniker of "Humble Crossings." It is a name that just came to me as I was contemplating making caskets.