Diamond in the Rough: A Sculptor Builds a Jewels (And More) Out of Salvaged Wood

Studio 360

Sculptor Ron van der Endebuilds incredible plywood mosaics that look like full-fledged sculptures — until you realize they’re much closer to a flat collage. He describes his pieces as “bas-relief,”a technique common in carved stone sculpture to give a shallow carving the impression of depth. But van der Ende takes the technique to a new level with his intricate faceted gemstones.

'Brimstone,' 2012

Stones and crystals seem like a perfect subject for the fractured, angular nature of cut plywood. Most of van der Ende’s sculptures are between five and six inches deep, although they appear much more three-dimensional. First he constructs the underlying shape of the sculpture, then layers a mosaic of salvaged wood on top. “I use perspective, built-in shadows, reflection, and other elements of painting like cross hatching in the surface mosaic to help describe the shape,” he says.

'Yoshiwara,' 2012 Ron van der Ende

Van der Ende doesn’t paint any of the scultpures: he has amassed a collection of doors and boards he calls his “color archive.” He uses a table saw to slice the found wood into thin boards to use as mosaic pieces, keeping the original paint and patina of his finds. “My friends call me whenever they spot an interesting pile of trash,” he says.

'Flawless' 2007

Van der Ende doesn’t just build gemstones — his sculptures depict buildings, cars, planes, pieces of infrastructure, and all sorts of other objects. His only restrictionis that wood is his only medium. “Myearliest memories feature the carpentry factory where my father works” he explains, “so there was always a connection to wood andcraft.” He’s been working with woodsince 1994, because “it is a beautiful, practical and modestmaterial that is notstandardized,” he says. “It has a life and character of itsown. In order to build anything I need its cooperation. Thematerial introduceselements of struggle, of chance; surprise andmagic.”

You can see more of van der Ende’s work below. What’s your favorite? Tell us in the comments!

'Breakerl' 2009

'Airstream RV' 2012

'Cold Storage' 2013

Detail of 'Cross-Section 1' 2012

'Cyclotron' 2013

A view of van der Ende's 2003 exhibit at Galerie Delta, with Hans Sonnenberg

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