Adam Detre is an artist living in Fiskars Village since 2020. Adam is famous for his beautiful hand carved wooden art pieces. His work has been displayed throughout the Philippines and UK and sold to private collectors throughout the world. His newest piece, Water #3, is a public piece on a 4 metre tree trunk in the centre of Fiskars Village.
Hi Adam! What was your path to Fiskars Village?
I admit without any regret or exaggeration that I have had quite a strange indirect route to Fiskars Village but now that I am here, I hope that I can make this my/home for many years. Honestly, so far, it is a lot more of a challenge that I hoped but I am a stubborn and very persistent person which means that when I set my mind to a task, I will make it happen.
I lived in the Philippines from 2011 until 2020. I decided to leave in March 2020 just before the COVID phenomena came but sadly, we were one week too late and were stuck for a few months. I was able to leave with my partner and our three cats. That is a story on its own. Ask me another day.
I worked as the General Manager for a Luxury Resort and Spa in the Philippines but in 2017, I started my company – Adam Detre Designs – which focuses on making sculpture and bespoke, unique functional items. My wife is Finnish and so it was while planning to move to Finland that I found Fiskars Village. I was immediately drawn to its creative and international community and loved that it felt like it was full of opportunity. I have learned since arriving that the opportunities are quite limited but I think that is the reality of life and something that I relish. I have often worked hard to prove people wrong and use that energy to keep chipping away (sculptor joke).
I can go back further and further through my life but maybe that is a story best told in person with something fine to sip and time to enjoy. I love hearing others’ stories and I also love telling my story.
What will this particular art piece might give to its viewers, in your opinion and in your hopes?
From the simplest point of view, I wanted to make something that is beautiful and visually striking on its own. The size of the piece will immediately help. The location next to the river is stunning. The sun’s path across the sky means that the light through the trees changes constantly through the day – a detail which I am very excited to see for myself.
I hope that I have made something interesting and beautiful enough that people may stop to read the information on the piece and look for longer. Maybe a few people will dig deeper and spend their time to look at my other work or think about how beautiful nature is. With this in mind, I think that many will think “huh! That is very pretty.” Many will ask “what is it?” and a few may think “why bother” but, for me, any opinion is important. The breadth and depth of the opinions are as interesting to me as the process of the creation.
Would you like to make more of these big outdoor sculptures?
I would LOVE to. I believe very very strongly in the value of creativity in and for the public. I feel that public art is so important now because so much emphasis is placed on progress which is often quantified by financial value or reward. It is rare to have something to be for the sake of being. I am driven by a desire to highlight nature’s beauty for the greater good of everyone. If I can make a small living doing this then I will consider myself successful. This is the dream.
What inspired you to do this particular piece?
I was having a drink on the terrace in Kuparipaja in October last year and saw the tree after it had been cut and, this may not sound real but this is the truth, I immediately, I thought about carving the tree as an homage to the River Fiskars. If you ask my wife she will testify that when I get a good idea like this, it becomes an obsession quite quickly. In the beginning, I thought about how I can make a tree trunk which is solid, heavy, dense and rigid into something that represents a river. Moving water flows, twists, curves – is fluid. It is both light and heavy. It gives life but can also take it away just as quickly.
The piece is made of 2 parts.
There is a spiral that I [will] have cut into the tree. This is designed to give the cylinder of the trunk some distance. A bit like unravelling a toilet roll tube. I wanted to give a sense of distance. The idea that the river started somewhere unknown to us and then travels away from us to the ocean.
On the face of the sculpture, I will carve a minimal representation of the ripples that move on the surface of the water. There is no clever explanation apart from wanting to show the connection between the piece and the water it is next to.
What inspires you as an artist?
Honestly, it will sound like a cliché but I try to let anything and everything in life inspire me. I am insatiably curious about everything. I take a lot of pleasure in understanding as much as I can about as many things as possible. I think some of my favourite and most regular themes are Nature as a whole. The massive but collective movement of anything – long grass in a large field moving in the breeze, waves repetitively moving and breaking; humans moving through transit systems. I have always been fascinated by the moon. I love to watch the moon rise in the same way that many people love to watch the sunset. It is this unimaginably huge, impressive disc that is constantly appearing and disappearing from our night sky. I used to love to take photos of the full moon from the beach in the Philippines. I love s-shaped curves and consider the circle to be the ‘perfect’ shape and so it appears constantly through my works.
One of the original inspirations from when I was a teenager was Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. I remember seeing it for the first time in the Tate Modern Gallery in London. It changed the way I viewed the world of creation and it continues to influence me and my work today.
How does it feel to carve wood at -17degrees Celcius?
I was surprised at how the temperature effects the task. Honestly, it is not too much different from carving in ‘normal’ temperatures. The hardest part? Keeping my toes warm. No matter how many pairs of socks or what boots I wear, my toes get really REALLY cold. So I need to take a break and go for a jog to get the blood flowing into my toes. The wood is also a little harder. My hand got a bit stuck to the scaffolding the other day which surprised me. I laughed at myself at that moment.
I am a romantic at heart and so I consider the extreme cold to be a part of the process. I like the idea of being a mad-dog Englishman who is new to Finland, standing 4 metres up on a platform carving an elm tree in -17C. I imagine that most people think I am crazy but find it somehow more understandable when they get to know me. As I said before, once the idea is set, it becomes an obsession at which point, it is quite hard to stop me. I like to indulge that part of my personality.
What do you want to tell people with your art?
My work does not have a political message nor does it try to convey socio-cultural preferences. I believe in totally fair and equal treatment for all. At this stage in my career, I actively do not want to tell people too much. I consider it a pleasure to hear someone’s unguided opinion and so I actively seek to nurture that opportunity. I am a lover of nature. Marc Chagall, who is my favourite painter, put it very well. “The habit of ignoring Nature is deeply implanted in our times. This attitude reminds me of people who never look you in the eye; I find them disturbing and always have to look away.” Maybe I would like viewers to take a moment to admire Water#3, and more importantly, admire the river and the natural, organic splendour that it is surrounded by.
Are there artists who have directly inspired this piece?
I have always admired Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column and for his remarkable ability to minimalise and simplify his subjects.
Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space is probably the most influential single piece of artwork to my life
I adore going to the Tate Modern in London or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. They are great examples of the experience, environment and the architecture having a strong influence on the pieces they exhibit
Why did you choose this location?
Well, the tree chose its location. I just found the tree.
Is art in public spaces important?
Yes. Very important. I feel like I have answered this question earlier
What wood is the tree?
I believe is Elm in English or Jalava in Finnish. Sadly, elm trees all over Europe are being attacked by disease and parasites so its longevity is important.
What tools do you use and why?
I use Bosch cordless power tools. The cordless technologies make it much easier to work in difficult and hard to reach locations. I have used a Bosch Professional GWS 18v-10 SC angle grinder, a Bosch Professional GGS 18v-10 SLC Professional straight grinder and a Bosch Professional GLL 3-800 C G Laser Level. The Bosch Suomi team have been very helpful by supply the tools. It shows great openness and willingness to support the creative use of their tools.
I use Kutzall burrs and wood carving discs. They are a specialist company who make a niche product but do it very well. I couldn’t do my work without them and they have supported me from the very beginning.
How does it feel when you tell people you are a sculptor and what do they say?
I refer to myself as a sculptor with pride but with slight trepidation. Most people are interested and ask what kind of sculpture. I say something along these lines:
“I make abstract, minimal sculptures usually from salvaged or repurposed wood. I love circles and so they are present throughout my work. I like to use nature as my inspiration and try to emulate movement in my current work.”
To see more of Adam Detres work and learn about the artist, please visit his website www.adamdetredesigns.com