Curator Karin Franzen approached Marshall, an experienced woodworker, about becoming involved in “The Art of Fire” project. He is no stranger to using fire as an artistic resource.
“I get a lot of my material from burned areas. I recognize the real positive aspect of burns, at least for me. Half of my stock is from different burned areas,” Marshall said.
Marshall studied hand woodcarving in Austria and Norway, and studied in the U.S. under German and Italian masters. Carving since 1989, his repertoire includes human portraits, coat of arms, animal carvings and Norwegian acanthus decorations. His studio, Polhavn Woodfabrik, specializes in rustic Alaska forest products such as traditional crafts, furniture, housewares, sculpture and signs. Part of his expertise lies in the ability to find beauty and potential in pieces of the forest, even if those pieces seem “damaged” by fire.
“I delight in cruising the boreal forest to spot and harvest unique tree treasures: twisted, curved and contorted tree trunks, branches, roots and burls,” he stated in submitted biographical information.
Marshall said he “gained a breadth of knowledge” and “a lot of good jargon” while interacting with scientists and managers on field trips. Ecologists at Bonanza Creek LTER answered a number of his questions about why trees grow the way they do and how environments produce different tree species, which transferred well into his tree harvesting work.
“It has been novel in that normally I would be proceeding with traditional sculptures and Alaska vernacular. With this (project) I am more receptive to the artistic element,” he said, adding that like fire itself his work is “is a grand exercise in adaptability.”
Read more about Phil and his studio, Polhavn Woodfabrik »