My Thoughts

Mediums - What is Antique Drunkwood?

Edited by Bob Fisher, Traveling Journalist

Antique Drunkwood is wood salvaged from the depths of the lakes and rivers of the Eastern Townships of Québec. While similar to recovered sunken logs, "drunkwood" is a term Shannon gave to the wood he uses in his creations.

This wood has been under water for 100 years or more and has become completely saturated. The recovered pieces of drunkwood he uses, primarily tree roots and lower stumps, are considered to be highly "disfigured"and useless in terms of lumber. For him, however, they have their own inherent beauty and character.

These roots and stumps are the remains of the virgin old-growth timber was consigned to river or lake bottoms either by the hand of nature or by humans. Having sunk to the bottom and lain there undisturbed for many years, they have become "seasoned" in a unique way and have undergone a secondary transformation — almost a metamorphosis. Originally the trees from which this wood comes were grown under a thick canopy of evergreen trees and thus competed for limited nutrients and sunlight in dense forests. Virgin hardwood species matured slowly, accumulating up to 40 to 60 annual rings per inch. These environmental conditions resulted in the development of a finely grained, highly figured hardwood of exceptional quality and beauty not found in today's lumber. Drunkwood is also time encapsulated; as an artist, Shannon strives to allow the layers to emerge and this timelessness is part of the beauty of the metamorphosis he perpetuates.

Each of his Antique Drunkwood Creations takes a tremendous amount of time and work, starting with long days of diving along the lake and river bottoms in the very cold water of the Eastern Townships in order to find the perfect pieces. The salvaged drunkwood is then raised to the surface and taken by barge to a loading site. It is placed on a trailer to be delivered to a storage shed where it sits for a minimum of two years to dry out. When it is dry the real work begins. Using water, sand, and fire (depending on the characteristics of the wood), Shannon's creative and restorative work begins. Once the piece is fully cleaned, the intense sanding process begins, and does not stop until a fine finish is obtained. This can take up to 200 hours of sanding; a gradual, patient, and loving process. Next, the wood is sealed with a special finish that Shannon formulates himself. When the piece is "cured," it is then polished for many hours until, as Shannon says, "I can feel the energy flowing once again. That's when I know this stage of my creation is finished."

Much thought is then put into creating an innovative method of supporting and balancing the piece so that the sculpture and base become one. Every sculpture is pushed to its limits to become one of a kind. With their new life, Shannon's Antique Drunkwood Creation becomes once again encapsulated in time, now for all to see.