When George Beach looks at a piece of twisted gnarled driftwood he might see
the free spirit of a soaring eagle or the face of a dying Indian. Petrified and
hardened by age, George sees sculptures in the wood that were started hundreds
of years ago by Mother Nature. It seems that George Beach is capable of capturing
that precise moment when one form of life is metamorphosed into another.
The eagles and Indian faces so often present in his sculpture reflect his
abiding love for Indian ways and Indian art.
Beach, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, was born in Purcell, Oklahoma
in 1947. He grew up in a military family and traveled with his parents "all over Europe" as a youngster. He graduated from highschool
in Lawton, OK. near Ft. Sill ,where Geronimo died. The family lived for a
while in Hawaii. George swam, learned to scuba dive, and always had a small
fort for a place to keep his carvings. Two things that later shaped how he
makes his living today.
George has been a carver since he was about 9 years old. Armed with a Swiss army
knife, he carved soap, plaster of paris and wood as a hobby. He also did
some pen & ink drawings and metal etchings for college art students who
asked for his help with their school projects. He is completely self-taught.
From his diving experience as a spear fisherman, George knew about the beautyand
the types of wood that could be found submerged in the lake and riverbeds.
His first drift wood sculpture was of a little Indian approximately 3 feet
tall. He remembers that his Labrador would not go near the carving. George goes diving for wood approximately twice a year. He says it is hard work,
and that the larger and better drift wood is becoming harder to find. Only
1 in 40 of the stumps and logs comes home with him because most are unsuitable
George is not attached to the wood or the carvings. He says that the excitement for
him is in the carving. He uses a chain saw, electric or air drive carving tools.
For fine detail he has a Fordom and Dremel tool. Finish work is done with
files, sandpaper, and steel wool. Finishing is what takes the most amount
of time. George finishes approximately 200 carvings per year.
George's sculpture is treated with boiled linseed oil. No lacquers or satin, everything
is natural. The oil serves to bring out the grain in the wood and not as
a preservative. He achieves a high gloss using tree wax. George recommends
maintenance of the carving by treating each piece with more oil each year.
He says that the oil should be completely wiped off with a soft rag, and
oil forced from the small cracks and crevices by using canned air.
Gravity typically holds the carved work to its base. No glue, nails or screws are
needed in either the assembly or presentation of George's finished sculpture.This
technique eliminates pieces from being broken during transit. George's favorite
woods include black walnut, cedar, mesquite, oak, and some pecan. He does
not like pine, maple, cypress or elm. He says that these woods are too soft
and do not hold up well.
George is a member of the National Wood Carvers Association. He says thathe
is more of a wood "grinder" than carver. He has collected wood from
all over the world. At one time he was doing 20 shows per year. He is now
down to about 10 shows per year. One peace of black walnut was carbon dated by a museum curator friend who estimated
its age to be 2,000 years old.