In the deep woods of Chatham County, sparked by his keen sense of the natural world, Andrew Wilson is exploring multiple pathways to creating art, among them photography, painting, wood-working, woodland gardening and jewelry-making.
Most recently, he has taken on one of nature’s boldest elements – electricity.
“In 2012, I created a spiral earring for my then future wife out of unique fungus-stained wood. It was only a single earring and it became a symbol of strength and confidence for her,” said Andrew. He then began designing unique earrings for others, mostly from wood or found objects in nature, such as mica and acorns.
“I like to frame my earrings by burning the wood, creating a contrasting color and texture,” he said. “Now I have taken my burning theme to a new level with the use of a Lichtenberg figure wood burner, a device that passes high-voltage electricity through the wood, creating branching, tree-like patterns as the electricity searches for the most conductive path.”
Andrew has developed a technique to control this unpredictable process, allowing him to create specific images. This has led him to the larger expression of wall art. “The electricity burns channels in the wood creating relief, resulting in unique pieces of art,” he said. “I try to incorporate the wood grain into each piece.”
He continues to explore new designs for earrings, necklaces and bracelets. “I am experimenting with ways to apply electrical burning to small jewelry pieces as well as gourds, which burn with very detailed branching,” said Andrew. “My wall art continues to be nature and math-inspired or abstract. Some pieces remain wood-toned and black, while others are brought to life with vibrant colors.”
Andrew, the youngest of three children born to Rouse and Sue Wilson, grew up in Pittsboro, NC. “From an early age, I have spent much of my time outdoors,” he said. “From catching ring-necked snakes in buckets and building forts in the woods as a kid, to hiking along the Haw River and tinkering in my woodland garden now, the Piedmont forest is my home.”
He has few memories from grade school but nearly all of them involved making art projects. “I can still remember in elementary school forming a pinch pot using a little styrofoam bowl as a guide,” he said. “Memories of creating art must have gotten ingrained early on in my life and they have persisted in my memory because I continue to develop those pathways. For me, the greatest tool for cultivating happiness and self-worth is to create.”
“I was fortunate as a kid to have the opportunity to visit many of the National Parks,” Andrew added. “Every summer, our family went on camping and hiking trips out West, and even more trips to the Appalachian Mountains. The splendor of nature has forever made its mark on me and continues to be my inspiration.”
While completing a degree in Biology from UNC-Asheville, he found that his field botany classes were the most impactful. “Each week we would take field trips out into the mountains to explore ecosystems and identify plants. This has completely changed the way I perceive the world because the woods are no longer just a sea of green,” he said. “I have acquired the skills to see the distinct pieces that make up the forest.”
“This attention to detail has helped develop my artistic eye because nature is the greatest creative mentor. Nature seems to follow simple patterns like branching, spirals, and symmetry. But snowflakes show how the same pattern has infinite creative outcomes.”
After graduating from college with a solid foundation in science, Andrew decided to explore “the practical side of growing plants” and he returned to Chatham County where he enrolled in the sustainable agriculture program at Central Carolina Community College.
“After a couple of years of hard labor working on a farm, as well as at the Orchid Gallery, Mark Hewitt Pottery, and various landscaping jobs, I had abused my body. I found helpful pain relief through massage therapy and chiropractic care,” said Andrew. Shortly after, he discovered the Body Therapy Institute, a massage school in Silk Hope.
“I have always been drawn to manipulate materials with my hands, so it seemed natural to be trained as a massage therapist,” Andrew said. “Now I provide therapeutic massage here in Pittsboro, where I live with my wife Brittany and our daughter Evalyn Fern.”
Andrew met Brittany at a potluck in a historic house in downtown Pittsboro which has since become 64 West Salon. “I can still see her radiating from across the room,” he said. Now she radiates in her classroom as a teacher at Woods Charter School.
As he was anticipating becoming a father, Andrew thought, “Oh no, my dreams of being an artist are ruined!” But the opposite has proven true. “Looking for a way to make money in my down time as a stay-at-home dad has ultimately enabled me to pursue being an artist professionally. My flexible schedule allows me to enjoyably split my time between my family, massage clients, and my art,” he said.
View and purchase his art
You can also schedule a viewing by emailing Andrew at RadiantEarthArt@gmail.com.
From the Artist:
Full name: Andrew Wilson
I was born: on Friday the 13th. What a lucky day!
One of my favorite childhood memories is: snitching Snickers bars from the candy jar at Grandma’s house.
As a kid, my dream job was to be: a millionaire with a helicopter.
Three words that describe my art are: bold, organic, different.
I am inspired by: wood that shows me what it wants to be.
When I am not creating art, you’ll probably find me: dreaming about my garden, avoiding doing dishes, or looking for something to eat.
Most people don’t know I: like to improvise on the piano when no one is around.
The most dangerous thing I ever did was: climb 60 feet into the canopy of a beech tree along the Haw River with no safety equipment.
My wife says I am: better at cutting her hair than a professional hair stylist.
My daughter says I am: Booboo. “All the girls are Neenees. And all the boys are Booboos.”
Three Chatham County places I frequent are: the creek behind my house, Jordan Lake and the thrift store.
(click on photos to view larger sizes)