Artist Profile: Paddy Cooper



Paddy Cooper

Native driftwood sculptures

“I live at the beach at Bay View and have been sculpting driftwood for about five years. There are many factors that attract me to driftwood, from collecting it to sculpting, carving and polishing. I’m first drawn to a piece of wood because of its interesting form, or because I know that it will hold an inner beauty. In many cases my main task is to uncover that hidden beauty, and present it at its best; sometimes this will include making something useful out of it, for example, a red beech burr bowl. Other times I will try and add a new dimension to it by carving it. Often pieces will suggest a particular form. Sometimes things emerge as I’m doing it.

With sculpting wood, I feel a strong connection with the earth, nature, and our land, Aotearoa, New Zealand. To me it is a spiritual thing as well, and I often have a strong sense of the wood I work with as being a taonga, or treasure. I feel grateful for the gift, and constantly amazed at the beauty that lies within the wood.. One of the things I love about driftwood is that it provides heart native timber, without having to destroy our native forest. It has often been fashioned and aged by being in the rivers and the sea for a very long time. Some of the pieces I work with feel like they are thousands of years old. Who knows how long they have been at the bottom of a river, buried in a riverbank, or at the bottom of the ocean (which seems to preserve them) before they are thrown up on a bank or beach?

I have travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand collecting wood. Whenever we go away I usually take the trailer and often fossick at a river or beach we are passing. Most of the pieces have been found at Hawkes Bay rivers or beaches. I usually look for red beech, but will often use rimu, puriri, occasionally kahikatea, pohutukawa or kauri. None of my pieces are stained or dyed in any way. The colour is totally natural. They are finished with natural oils. I hope you enjoy them.”