Justin Gordon
~ Biography ~
  


When I started carving in 1974, I whittled some 3 inch figures of little bearded men in a multitude of poses. I carved dozens of them and progressed to carving scenes with these little men that included the centerfold of Jethro Tull's Aqualung album as a wall sconce. I even got to present this piece to the band leader, Ian Anderson, at a concert. [His next album was titled "Songs from the Wood"] During semester breaks in college, I played with snow in the winter and sand at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Mass, in the summers. At the beach, my sand castles reached good size and drew big crowds and it seemed like early in the day many of the mothers would get frustrated with their kids and suggest that they "go see what that man is doing over there" just to get them out of their hair. I ended up with 5 to 25 kids helping to build a city of canals, bridges, sand trees and skull mountains around my castle. When the kids noticed the tide was rising to an impending doom for all our labors, the excitement grew to where they would moan and scream when yet another sand works was lost to the waves. The inevitable also included my castle which came down slowly, a roofed section or tower at a time, as each wave settled the sand at its base. With all the noise from these kids screaming after every castle section crashed into oblivion, the mothers eventually showed up and soon there would be 30 to 50 people watching this 4 foot castle and city crumble into the sea, wave after wave, piece by piece, with ear piercing screams from all these kids watching the demise of the day's adventure. A man approached me once and told me he found his daughter crying one night after a beach day because she couldn't believe some guy would spend all day making a beautiful sand castle and loose it to the waves of Mother Nature. Such is life, little girl. Appropriately, I found my company name in a book of names, "Elwin", which means elf friend or friend of the little people.

I finished my Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1983 and worked for defense contractors building missile components. During my nine years in the corporate world, I continued playing in the sand. The pieces got bigger and more public. Then I saw a tall sand sculpture in a mall that was done by a California company. This inspired me to pursue sculpture for an income. While trying to get vacation time from the missile business to do my first paying sand sculpture in a mall, the missile business laid me off. Hence, the proverbial "boot in the ass" gave more inspiration to pursue sculpting for a living. This was 1991. Since then I've done sand sculptures from the Caribbean to Canada and Arizona to Cape Cod and Oman and Great Britain. With a carving partner, I also placed fifth in the World Sand Sculpture Competition in Harrison Hot Springs, BC, Canada in 1992 in the team category. Since 1995, I'm also a regular attraction at the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, Mass. where I do a modest sand sculpture with over 50 tons and reach 15 feet high. The Hampton Beach Sand Sculpture event with GregGrady.com is also an event I attend regularly. Most of my sand works can be seen in my gallery of photographs. I must say, humbly, some of these photos are pretty impressive. It sure beats pushing a pencil for a living.  

One day at a beach, a woman named Yannula Blacy introduced herself as a wax modeler for the jewelry industry looking for an apprentice. I took her up on her offer and quickly learned wax modeling for precious gems set in gold, silver and platinum. Before long, I was earning and income with her and my engineering and production education was helping her develop power tools with Foredom Power Tools which took hours off the old way of wax modeling. These tools and methods are still widely used today.
 

During winters, I subsidized my skiing by offering my sculpting services to New England ski areas in exchange for lift passes. I worked for 5 years at Wildcat Mountain, in Pinkham Notch, NH, doing snow sculptures of large cats as big as a two car garage with slides through them. I've also done smaller snow sculptures at various locations on the mountain and for their special events. Not much compares with being on a mountain top watching a sunrise turn a snow blanketed mountain range all the colors of a sunset. Recently, I've been doing snow sculptures at Attitash/Bear Peak, in Bartlett, NH for vacation week attractions.

  



To date I sculpt in eight mediums. Wood, wax, snow and sand, mentioned above and I've also done work in clay for the ceramics industry, stone, ice, and foam. With all my travels doing sand sculptures at mall, fairs and trade shows, I met a man that did great wood carvings, big carvings that he roughed out with a chainsaw then put in the finished details with hand tools. This meeting created more inspiration and brought me home to a Husqvarna dealer to buy my first chainsaw. Soon there were bigger wood carvings, much bigger from tree pieces. A popular carving I do is black bear cubs in amusing poses; sleeping on deck rails, peeking in kitchen windows, or sniffing a champagne bottle top to name a few. Some of the biggest tree carvings I've done were a life size Indian shooting an arrow into the sky with a yellow lab dog in Hudson, MA, a fourteen foot high mother mermaid with two daughter mermaids in Brookline, MA, and a twenty five foot high compilation of story book characters from a tree trunk at StoryLand, NH, carved while hanging out of an aerial lift. Many of my carvings can be seen in a photo gallery in the lobby of Stripers Grille in Salisbury, Mass. where I also have many carvings displayed including a life size carving of the restaurant's logo, Gus the fisherman, who's got a firm hold on a "Keeper" striped bass fish.

My work at Story Land also includes the medium of foam. This is a two pound density insulation foam I sculpt into the profound and comical characters you can only find at Story Land and, perhaps, in your imagination. After I sculpt them, Story Land puts a hard coating on them, paints them and puts the pieces into the park. The Foam Gallery page shows much of what I've carved for them.


With the acquisition of a chainsaw, it was an easy progression to creating ice sculptures. After all, sculpture is sculpture. All you need is the tools for the medium. (you should see the hedges in my yard). Ice is no different, just colder. Proficiency with the chainsaw and a carving bar tip make easy work of it, especially the large ice sculptures. I did First Night events for Newburyport and Beverly, Mass, for many years as well as "The Big Show", First Night Boston in 2001 with some fellow ice carvers from the culinary profession.

    

Currently, I teach two carving classes, one in Groveland and another in Randolph, Mass. to the South Shore Wood Carvers. I instruct with any type of carving the students want from the abstract to lifelike and relief to in-the-round. In my Groveland class, we did 10 to 12 inch Old World Santas where my demonstration piece went on to win the national Wood Craft Santa Carving Competition. It can be seen in my Fine Carvings gallery and appeared on a television segment of "The American Woodshop" with host, Scott Phillips in February, 2004. I'm also an active member in the New England Wood Carvers Association.

    

My recent endeavors are in exotic woods and using the natural grains and colors to enhance the finished figures. This is where my knowledge of wood and carving merge. My over thirty five years of sculpting has given me an eye for a pleasing figure and a keen knowledge of wood grain and color. Together, the combination of figure and material makes for attractive pieces of reshaped natural beauty.


             
 



    


As seen in my Gallery of works, I capture the cute, the comical, and the original poise in a subject. I believe it's an extension of a sense of humor and the serious nature of my self and purpose, depending on the figure. These character traits are shared by many and often blossom in conversations with clients while brainstorming ideas for sculptures. The notion that "anything can be made, just pick one" from the lifelike to the imaginary opens a huge door that exposes you to all that you've seen and liked and all that you'd like to see. Just as God has given each of us special talents and abilities for a greater purpose beyond ourselves, we just have to draw from what we know, and apply it to what we want.

                 
 
Justin