Windy Island Designs owners create sculptures from wood
By Mary Ellen Riddle | Correspondent
Windy Island Designs is as much about creating arresting wooden sculptures as it is about the relationship that powers it. Tom and Keven Ericksens’ relationship rests at the heart of this business.
Married 46 years, the Ericksens fit together like pieces in the wooden art they create. They each contribute their best self to the process and the results are a partnership as finely honed and colorful as their artwork. The two windsurfers share a love of the water and welcome its influences on their work. The wood sculptures they cut, carve and finish are formed into colorful images that reflect their island home, from turtles and fish to shells.
“All of this is an extension of our voice and mind,” Tom says. “That’s what art is.”
Their shared experiences and deep camaraderie make them work well together, despite their outwardly contrasting personalities. His speech is layered and zestful, peppered with quick thoughts moving in many directions. Her succinct dialogue takes a more linear approach to conversation. Together their balance creates a harmonic hum in their workshop, a space filled with the tools of the trade and the scent of freshly cut wood.
The physical process for their sculptures starts with Tom stacking layers of skateboard veneers — greens, blues, reds, pink, yellow and blues — gluing them together and carving into them to reveal the underlying colors and form a design.
“Music comes to me in colors when I am cutting this stuff,” Tom says. “I crank up the AC/DC and Rolling Stones, and I’m seeing it and hearing it and tasting it. I have to put my whole body into it.”
From there, Keven takes over, finishing the piece by smoothing out fuzzy edges and carving to refine the work. The wood is covered with a water-soluble polyacrylic coat that makes the colors pop. “I’m also the organizer, which came from my previous position.” Keven says.
She’s referring to her position working as a nursing manager before she retired and dove into art. Now, her organization includes scheduling the various opportunities to show their work at shows on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Tom also spent a career working in the medical field as a critical care cardiology nurse. Caring and human contact are important to the couple. Art contributes to that need.
Creating has always also been a part of the duos’ lives. “I sold my first pen and ink (drawing) when I was 10 years old to a family friend for 25 cents,” Tom says. “So, I consider myself a lifer.”
Keven grew up around music, taught herself to play guitar at 13 and is a writer and currently studying music theory for piano. “I was always drawn to art,” she says. “I drew a lot as a child. But it has been difficult to get there — difficult, fun, challenging, kind of like life. It’s messy, fabulous and interesting.”
The art shows they participate in put them in contact with other artists and the public and provide opportunities to give of their creative selves to others. Keven credits her mother for her compassionate side. “I got from her the gift of giving and tenacity,” she says. “It helps in art.”
Tom credits his mentors for igniting his love of wood, the water and creativity. “Dad restored a couple of older boats,” he says. “I worked with him as a child.”
He also fondly recalls an art teacher, Mrs. Boutilliere, who inspired him from 3rd to 7th grades. “She would rescue me from the hall with my nose to the wall — she’d grab me and take me to the art room,” he says. She instilled a fearlessness into Tom and helped reveal to him the heart and soul of art.
Tom took these lessons from his youth and went on to become a contractor, a master cabinet maker and creator of wooden toys and jewelry before he entered nursing.
Their 46 years of shared experiences and a deep respect for each other fuels their complementing creativity.
“He gets things out of stuff that you wouldn’t think he’d be able to do,” Keven says about Tom’s innovative approach to art and technology. She also was a sounding board during his woodworking years.
Conversely, Tom says Keven’s study of musical theory inspires him. “I bought a ukulele and am trying to learn that,” he says and even crafted other musical instruments — a cigar box guitar and a strum stick.
Today they are grateful to be a team in their home workshop and discuss their art at the dinner table. … art and Mrs. Boutilliere. They both embrace what she ignited in Tom: a fearlessness that frees creativity. In the woodshop as the chips fly and merge with ideas, creativity and friendship, the couple builds upon the experiences that led them to be there. “It’s an evolution,” Keven says. “I can’t wait to get up in the morning. Every experience that we’ve had plays into everything we are doing now.”
To contact the Ericksens regarding shows, commissions and to see their art, go to windyislanddesigns.com.