To 46 year-old Eon Waterton, a piece of wood represents something of majestic beauty. By simply looking at the lumber and rubbing his hands over its surface, a range of images pops into his head: two women holding hands as if to pray, a couple looking at each other lovingly, acrobats jumping on each other or strange facial expressions. "The possibilities are endless," Waterton said, as he sat in the Main Street avenue, sanding a small wooden piece with medium-grain sandpaper.
Waterton explained that his career as a sculptor had its beginnings over 25 years ago after he enrolled in the Burrowes School of Art. "As a youngster I always had an appreciation for art and I envisioned doing exactly what I am doing now." According to Waterton, he spent two years at the art school, developing techniques such as painting on canvas, textile designs and graphic art but in the end he chose sculpting as his major.
The Goedverwagting, ECD resident said that although his work schedule was very flexible, he tried to maintain some sort of structure: "I would get up at about 6 am and water my kitchen garden and do some other chores around the house." Between 9 am and noon, he continued, his main focus was to create more pieces for his current collection, which includes one large piece and 13 smaller pieces.
First Waterton identifies a piece of lumber to work with from hardwoods such as greenheart, purpleheart or mahogany. "Sometimes I would buy lumber from the Mayor and City Council after they would have cut down a tree, or from private individuals," he said. The lumber is then transported to his home by truck, where he does his work in a shed.
A chainsaw is used to cut the tree into the sizes that Waterton wants. "When doing this I have to ensure that I wear protective gear such as a respirator, eye goggles and industrial gloves," he explained. Following this there are three steps to creating the works of art: shaping, smoothing and polishing: "If I am doing a large sculpture, let's say over 5 ft, I do the initial shaping of the wood with a chainsaw, whereas if I am doing a smaller piece I use what is called a gouge to do the shaping."
After the wood has begun to take shape, a rasp file (specially designed for wood) is used to smooth the sculpture. Thereafter, the surface of the wood is smoothed out further with the use of three sets of sandpaper in this order: coarse, medium and fine-grained. "Just after the medium-grain sanding paper is used," he said, "floor or shoe polish is rubbed on the piece before the fine-grained paper is used... After rubbing the creations with the last set of paper, a second coat of polish is added, for a nice shiny finish."
Apart from creating his own visions, there are times when customers would ask for a specific piece. According to Waterton, this can be a bit more challenging, because instead of just creating the piece based on his feelings, he would have to concentrate on achieving something close to what the customer wants.
"Every day I work on my pieces," the sculptor said; "If I don't work on them even for a day, I feel as though a part of me is missing." After spending three hours sculpting at home, he then packs the small and medium-sized pieces in a huge duffel bag and arranges them for display in the avenue under a tree. "I don't bring out the large pieces; those are left at home. In many cases, those are sold by word of mouth," he said.
Waterton said that the largest piece ever created by him was an abstract, acrobatic-themed one measuring a little over 7 ft, and a good friend who lives in Australia fell in love with it.
He noted that just after he had graduated from art school, he was not as confident as he is today: "The experience has made this job a lot easier for me... I really know this thing now." However, Waterton revealed that he would grasp any opportunity to learn more, not only about sculpting wood, but also other materials such as stone. "From time to time," he said, "I would go to other countries to get more ideas and also to see what the market is like for my products. I went to Trinidad during the Carnival celebrations this year."
Waterton said his personal life was not reflected in the pieces. "I do themes that I think people ought to emulate. For instance for the whole of this year I have decided to make love the focal point of my pieces," he said pointing to a man and a woman embracing each other.
He holds to the firm belief that eating fast food creates a mental block, and as such his diet consists mainly of fruit and vegetables. In addition, he explained, when he is working, music helps him to produce better material.
The sculptor said that he was not in a financial position to own a permanent place where he could sell his work, and as such he was like a rolling stone, trying his best not to get into trouble with the authorities: "For some time I was stationed by the Bank of Guyana, then I moved to the front of Guyana Stores, then to Avenue of the Republic and now I'm here."
In his opinion, the area of the fine arts is not given much attention and potential to grow: "We really need support from the business community and other entities in terms of organising more activities where our work can be displayed, so that we can get more income and be able to consistently produce excellent quality work." (Melissa Chapman)