My dad, Cliff Wellburn, carved these balls in a cage from a single piece of juniper wood. It’s an amazing design because the balls can’t be removed from the cage and yet there are no joints.
I think this particular carving was one he made during a summer when we vacationed on Galiano Island, back in the late sixties or early seventies. He made others of the same design, and he also carved several chains from single pieces of wood with no joining as well. When finished, each chain would be longer than the block of wood it came from.
I recall being fascinated as I watched him make these items. He called it whittling rather than carving by the way (I had forgotten that till this moment). Now that I’ve looked it up I realize that whittlers use only a knife while carvers use lots of other tools. Whittling describes his process perfectly – sitting on a deck chair on the beach with just a pocket knife.
For the ball and cage piece, the balls started out as square blocks attached to the cage posts. Then he’d carefully detach them from the posts and start smoothing them out into rounded shapes. Apparently it was very tricky to ensure that they didn’t get too small or they’d fall out of the cage. What’s really cool about the one in this photo is that the core of the juniper is a darker colour than the edges, so the posts are naturally lighter. The piece was not stained. I can remember the smell of the shavings.
I set the carving on the piano this morning and took a photo as a tribute – thinking about the work he did. Happy Father’s Day!