Master woodcarver Jeff Samudosky of Gig Harbor spent 16-hour days for 34 days before he completed the wooden marine and wildlife totem at Crescent Creek Park.
The wood sculptor had been commissioned by the Gig Harbor Maritime Playzone Commission earlier this year to complete a focal point for the park.
“The park wanted to create a sense of place and repurpose a natural resource, creating an interesting element for the park,” said Brett Marlo DeSantis, a Maritime Playzone committee member.
Samudosky, a self-taught wood sculptor, has been cultivating wood projects for the past 16 years. The 100-year-old cedar tree used for the statue proved to be a challenge in many ways.
“The tree had many variables as it wasn’t a solid wood block,” Samudosky said.
“This project took all that I have learned over the last 16 years as a carver. I wanted to ‘outdo’ what I had done before, as I knew it would be the focal point for so many to see.”
Samudosky didn’t use a blueprint for any set plans. He just went with a concept of what he wanted to do by integrating native wildlife and marine life from around the area.
The historic cedar tree was a separate challenge because it was two trees with no center.
“Cedars tree grow in seams and have pockets I had to work around,” Samudosky said. “The project was constantly changing and evolving as I tried to tie it all together. I spent many days being thoughtful and planning. It was a mental challenge as much as anything to figure out what would work in places.”
The project took longer than expected with the twists and turns of the wood. Samudosky worked under the lights at times until 1:30 a.m., making sure he melded the wildlife together.
The carver needed to handcraft several tools to complete his work on some of the creatures.
“If a rusty spoon would have helped, I would have used it,” Samudosky said. “I used every tool I owned, bought some and created others.”
Most carvings have the scultptor alone in his studio, but this project allowed Samudosky to be out in the public, interacting with people who stopped by to see the progress.
Many families came out daily to chat and check out the progress.
“I enjoyed seeing kids’ expressions,” Samudosky said. “I know this is for the residents, and they care about it, but I like the fact this sculpture will be here for future generations of kids to enjoy.”
Samudosky said it was his most challenging project.
“I’d love to be able to do more public commissioned work,” he said.
The park was plagued a few weeks ago with some vandalism, but the city installed cameras to protect the piece of art, allowing the totem to be uncovered and oiled for preservation.
The official unveiling has been postponed due to weather, but a public ceremony will be scheduled as the park is finished.
“For Gig Harbor to have Jeff’s caliber of talent do this work is a wonderful asset,” said Lita Dawn Stanton, projects manager for the City of Gig Harbor. “He’s the Michelangelo of wood. He took raw wood and revealed what we see today. Jeff is a true artist.”
Samudosky has a gallery at 8719 state Route 16. He creates custom wood sculptures, and his shop has lots of handcrafted items such as one-of-a-kind wine racks, chess and cutting boards, wildlife pieces, tables and mantles.