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Always Reaching...

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Let’s take a deep dive into the creative world of Bruce Fransen – the Harpers Ferry wood sculptor. Bruce is unique in that he brings the expertise of years as an arborist to his craft. His work sings with design talent and impeccable finishing. But most good artists are explorers. They want to be learning, stretching, energized by new worlds to conquer. What new techniques is Bruce adding to his toolbox?

“I’m having a love affair with color and exploring the use of more texture,” Bruce explains. “My pursuit of color is spurred on by the unfortunate loss of ash trees from disease. It turns out that ash takes color very well. I started with food coloring but that bleached out quickly. I purchased a sample pack of 5 colors of powdered aniline dyes for $13. They took and they lasted. And my experiments began.”

Bruce is layering and blending and overlaying colors. That plus the use of a polished lacquer finish in several buffed layers give his pieces an almost irridescent glow. But one principle never leaves his work. “I want the wood to show up. I sometimes use a torch to emphasize the grain. Ash alternates hard and soft part of the grain and the torch burns the softer portion first.” Another principle emerges. “I spend an enormous amount of time making sure each part of the grain is connecting. Sanding creates scratches which interrupt the grain,” and so he sands with finer and finer grit until the lines are fully intact.

Artists like Bruce are above all learners and experimenters. They work on the edge,

always reaching.

Check out Bruce’s work at his website: which is also a portal to his work at Gallery at 105 and Tamarack. You’ll also find him in his own home gallery during the Over the Mountain Studio Tour in November 14 and 15.

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