Fantastical Figures Emerge From Hand-Carved Pieces of Found Driftwood

Driftwood Art by Debra Bernier

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Artist Debra Bernier scours the natural settings around her home to cultivate her artistic practice. Working in sculpture, the artist transforms the things she finds traversing the nearby shoreline into fanciful figures that evoke the same wonder she experiences when she's outside. “While I walk in the forest, explore tide-pools or beach-comb,” she describes to My Modern Met, “I am in awe of Mother Nature's creations.”

Being in nature is both a healing practice and one that Bernier views with reverence. It holds a lot of meaning in her life and as a result, is the driving inspiration for her hand-carved work. “I'm surrounded by colors, fascinating shapes, and intricate designs,” she explains. “Sometimes these natural sculptures were just created, like a spider's web or the colors on a leaf. Other times, it took millions of years to form something I can hold in my hand, like a stone or a fossil.” She has gratitude for these amazing formulations and continues their legacy with her own additions. “There is a sacred connection between us and the natural world that is unseen. I try to make this unity visible through my art.”

The feminine nymphs and portraits of human faces on driftwood represent the final chapters in the objects' stories. “I'm enchanted with how each piece of driftwood is different,” Bernier says. “There are many influences that shape a piece of driftwood; weather, water, sand, bugs, rocks, even the moon and its effects on the tide play a part in its formation.” She sees driftwood as its own sculpture that’s been crafted by nature and time. “When I work on a piece of wood in my studio, I think of this journey and how I can give it a final chapter as a work of art.”

Bernier sells her driftwood sculptures and more in her Etsy shop.

Artist Debra Bernier creates driftwood sculptures with fanciful figures carved into them.

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My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Debra Bernier.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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