My identity as an artist began when I was schooled by my uncle Nolan Chambers on a unique wood carving technique that he learned from his brother Donald Chambers. My first artistic efforts were duplicates of their work, created using scrap lumber. In a very short time I was altering their designs, then creating my own.
My flame exploded after my first visit to Southern Lumber Company in San Jose, California. I was spellbound…mesmerized for hours as I touched and engaged with exotic woods from ash to zebra. The smells, colors, textures, and grains were astounding. I imagined that the piece of African ebony I held in my hands could have witnessed the birth of slavery! The slice of oak may have provided shade for the underground railroad! Some mother’s child may have hung from the southern pine! I recognized that these trees had powerful stories to tell and from that day forward, I was compelled to translate on their behalf.
Despite the array of exotic woods that spoke to me, most of my recent pieces are created from pine. Pine wood is soft, kind to my tools, and has expressive grain patterns that call to me. The variation of colors seen in different pieces is achieved by using traditional wood stains, inks, paint, and a few custom mixtures that I’ve developed over the years. Production time varies based on the size and complexity of the design. design.
Design ideas and themes are generally inspired by nature, history, life, love, music, and social justice. There have been rare times when I don’t seem to be conscious during the design process. l believe that in those circumstances, I’m guided by ancestral forces. In 1980, I met an African gentleman at an exhibit in Oakland who saw one of my pieces and adamantly insisted, despite my denial, that I either came from his country or studied his culture. This memory faded over the years, but imagine my astonishment when my recent ancestry.com profile revealed that I am 29% Nigerian. Can’t wait to see how my work evolves now that I have this new perspective on where I’m from.
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Contact Justice at 408 455-1546 or [email protected]