As told by Maureen
Hawthorne Pete loves wood ‑ wood of all kinds. During the daylight hours he can frequently be seen scrounging the woods and fencerows and brushpiles searching for just the right piece for his next project. He says that finding wood with the right character is the hardest part of his work. He turns each selection in his hands, absorbing its shape, grain, weight, color and smell. He drags the chosen pieces to his home workshop which is in the old vine covered packing crate that sits behind the Juniper tree. There they must dry, sometimes for a year, before he begins to carve. And what carving!
Peterjon Thomas showed me one that he has of a frog (received in exchange for a supply of carpenter aprons). The frog seems to be stopped in just that moment before it springs into the air after the small dragonfly that is suspended above it. There is energy and life in every turn of the wood. And I can almost see the wings of the dragonfly vibrate with intentions of escape.
But realism isn't the only style in which he carves. His driftwood series looks just like the wave worn pieces that I've found on the Great Lakes Beaches, with smooth graceful curves and the suggestions of a face or a silhouette. And then there are the signs. He carves signs to say welcome and to note who lives where and to pass on a bit of Pip humor. His signs hang from trees and doorways and grace the walls of the kitchens and bedrooms of the other Pips.
You might wonder why you have never seen any of these wonderful works. The reason is that he colors each with a deep stain that he makes himself from the liquid of rotting black walnut husks, from boiled poplar leaves or from wraps of dried grass. These colors make them so resemble the natural weather worn wood from which they came that the casual observer would pass by without noticing. Those that are seen are assumed to be curiosities of unusual tree growth or weather distress, and are often collected as such. I suspect that even you might have unknowingly gathered up one of his pieces on a beach some place.
1994, 2006 by Maureen Carlson