Weathered or Not

Nina Fox Herlihy of Rye works at bringing life to dead wood.Her creatures are derived from the twists of old limbs or the decay of weathered wood. As she says, “The form of the wood determines what I do with it. I can see the fish or the bird before I begin.”

Her materials are collected on long walks with her two dogs, or on occasion she finds a gift basket of old wood left on her doorstep by a fan.

Herlihy takes a piece from the previously sorted “fish” or “bird” pile in her studio basement and then adds the details that brings the creature’s personality to life. Rusty nails may form a dorsal fin and a nut and washer picked off the ground from a metal scrapyard may become a fish eye. Herlihy continues to work the piece by gently filing and shaping the wood, pounding holes for surface patterns and applying bright colors or a touch of metallic paint that oddly mimics the shiny scales.

Each piece is ultimately as unique as the assortment of discards that went into it. Herlihy adds, “I don’t strive to make the fish or birds in a preconceived manner.” It is the found materials and her imagination that give each piece its sassy or mellow or quizzical character.

Prices are affordable, from $14 for 2-inch pins and ornaments to $48 to $100 for fish, birds, flowers, masks and more.

Herlihy’s work can be found at the Sunapee Fair (August 7-15) in the N.H. Art Association tent and year-round at Tulips at 62 Market St., Portsmouth (431-9445), or her studio by appointment.

— Susan Laughlin

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