By Richard Varr
A mermaid gestures with her arms extended, her delicate fingers reaching out to touch me. I take a closer look at this wooden figurine only to see her staring eyes and puffy lips carved with the precision of artist Cheddie Richardson’s steady hand. The mermaid’s slender, smooth and varnished torso juts out from one of the twisted branches, as Richardson has turned dried and lifeless driftwood into art evoking the feeling of his Caribbean homeland.
“I carve animals, birds, fish or anything that takes the shape from the driftwood – the driftwood tends to speak to me,” Richardson says of his artwork on the scenic and tranquil island of Anguilla with its white sand beaches. “Whatever the shape, I’ll just bring it out.”
I stroll though his gallery and see dolphins, fish and the slender necks and beaks of pelicans and other seabirds carved from the spiny and pointed driftwood branches. Small sailboats decorate the walls as well. Richardson often carves one or two branches while the others serve as the artwork’s base. “I try to leave as much of the natural wood as possible, so when you look at it you see what we started with.”
“I work with driftwood right from the island,” he adds. “It’s wood that you’ll see when you go to the beaches, or to the lagoons and ponds. And when you come to my gallery, you can see what I’ve done to those pieces to create art.”
“I try to create the fish in the sea,” he tells me. “So when you go to the restaurants and see snapper, or when snorkeling, you will see all these fish. I try to stick with the birds and fish you see around here, and boats as well because boat racing is a big thing on island.”
Richardson leads me downstairs to his studio, a small room with his chisels, a ban saw, drill press and other tools. Unfinished artworks are scattered around. But what catches my eye are the heaps of driftwood cluttering the floor. “I go out and find them. And I have my friends and guys who work for me find them,” he says. “I’m always looking.”
Richardson, a sculptor and artist for more than 30 years, says he works on over 100 pieces at one time. “When I see a piece of driftwood, I sketch it and I can always come back to it,” he explains. “One day, I see a fish. The next day I might see something else.” Projects include a sandpiper with its chiseled eyes, beak and layered feathers already discernible, the face of an eagle and the head of an owl still taking shape. And nearby is a bird book he uses for reference.
“I get a good feeling because I’m creating from a natural piece of wood,” Richardson tells me. “So I hope you get a good feeling.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Cheddie’s Carving Studio, The Cove, Anguilla 264-497-6027 firstname.lastname@example.org