Photo Gallery: Reydon sculptor finds beauty in driftwood
- Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher
Many people can look at a chunk of driftwood and see nothing more than a dead tree. But for Reydon artist Chris Berry, a log washed up on the beach is filled with beauty and creative potential.
Working from a bench in his sawdust-filled garage, Mr Berry transforms the silvery, salt-bleached logs and branches, carving them into shark fins, seal heads and bird feathers. Wire wool is used to smooth the surface of the piece before it is oiled to bring out the natural purples, reds and yellows in the wood.
Mr Berry, who was a joiner before entering the antiques business, began working with driftwood as a hobby.
He realised it could be a full-time business when a neighbour saw him working on one of his first pieces and offered to buy it.
The driftwood log took three hours to recover, with permission, from the beach at Covehithe by wheelbarrow and eventually became a garden seat.
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'I have always loved different woods,' he said. 'I look at a piece and see there is something in it. I am not always sure what, but it just drops in to place once I start working on it.
'I take what is there and remove pieces here and there to refine it. It is like looking at the clouds and seeing faces and shapes.'
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Mr Berry now runs Nature Reborn with his wife Jean, using hardwood imported from New Zealand.
He sources the material from overseas because he says it is difficult to find large pieces of driftwood in the UK.
Some of the hardwood species Mr Berry uses live for up to 1,000 years. He said the dead logs might have been drifting around in the ocean currents for years before they wash up on New Zealand's beaches during storms.
Mr Berry recently completed one of his largest commissions to date – a 7ft centrepiece for Ellough Industrial Estate near Beccles.
He said: 'I try to make the wood look natural and not like it has been worked on. I try to leave a lot to the imagination but there are pieces that I have carved things in to.
'I have one piece that has two rams' heads on it. One that is easy to spot and another that is more difficult.
'I have found stones inside some of the trees when I have been working on them. They must have been in there for hundreds of years. I've also found vines growing through the centre of them.'
Mr and Mrs Berry, who believe they are the only company in England making driftwood sculptures, have launched the Suffolk Artisans – a group of nine people who make their own products to sell at craft fairs.
'It doesn't matter where the raw materials come from but members must live and work in this area,' Mr Berry said.
'I wanted to get back to doing an exhibition where people make things themselves and don't just import it from somewhere else.'
The Suffolk Artisans will be holding their first fair at Southwold Conservative Club on Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24 between 10am and 5pm.
Nature Reborn will be exhibiting at Snape Maltings from today until Thursday from 10am to 5pm.
Mr Berry will also be taking part in Suffolk Open Studios during the first four weekends in June.