By Michael Schieffer
Although I adore all forms of art, I had never dabbled in sculpting until recently when asked to create a life-size horse sculpture. I had no idea what material to use for such a tall task. Then some landscapers’ palm frond clippings caught my eye as the perfect shapes for large animal muscles. As if a palm frond fell and hit me in the head, I knew I had found my medium. Each new pose delivered insights along with tips from professionals at constructing sturdier frames and improving preservation techniques. Before I knew it there was a whole herd in the backyard. Part of the appeal has been recycling natural palm clippings that are considered dead, frail and discarded, and transforming them into something that is alive, strong and beautiful.
The process starts with gathering materials. Then, the grueling part begins, trimming the loose edges with a large knife and cleaning the dirt and critters from the inside. I meticulously scrape, scrub and brush off thick layers of mold on the outside, revealing marvelously marbled patterns of vibrant colors like pink, purple, and orange. After that, each piece is individually lacquered with insect and water repellent.
A frame design is sketched and the carpenter process ensues with drilling weatherproof screws into processed wood posts and two by fours. The palm fronds are then carefully selected after much brainstorming and screwed onto the frame like a shell. The artwork is then lacquered one last time to minimize sun damage and bring out the sheen.
Palm fronds, wood frame
Chandler City Hall
175 S Arizona Ave.
Chandler, AZ 85225