The End of an Era: Birdhaven Studio Workshop, Woody Creek, 2004 to 2017

Author, First of August. 2004 A Brand New Studio Workshop is Born.

It was the first day of August, 2004, when I posed for these photos, but nine months had elapsed since my arrival in the Roaring Fork Valley,  and at this point I was chompin’ at the bit to get back to the business of carving stone.

Martin Cooney, August 1st, 2004. A Brand New Studio Workshop is Born. I had spent the previous four years, with my wife Kris and son Joseph,   living in and around the Georgian city of Bath,  in the South West of England, having relocated there from Portland, Oregon,  where we had lived for the twelve years prior to that.

In 2000 I enrolled at the City of Bath College, where I achieved my NVQ Level 2 qualifications,  and went on to gain sufficient knowledge and experience working in the local stone industry as a full time banker mason,  that I eagerly recognized  the point at which I felt that I was in a position to apply my newfound skills within the framework of my own masonry business.

And so at last I was back in a banker shop, carving stone.   But not just any banker shop – MY banker shop it was,   and I could not have been prouder,  nor happier just to carve stone in such a wonderful, inspiring, work space.

It would be difficult to place a figure as to the sum total of all the stone,  both rough block and sawn,  that I have had the pleasure to carve, down through the years,  in this compact little space.

Working as a jobbing banker mason afforded me the opportunity to not only carve a wide variety of new and different American stone, but it also gave me the opportunity to work on a huge array of projects.

Martin Cooney, August 1st, 2004. with Ford F350 Flatbed Truck.

What’s more – I got to do all this, right here in the Roaring Fork Valley.

It was a good living, until the financial crash of 2008, but that’s another, if familiar, story.

From the moment my workshop studio was open for business I had been free to experiment with a huge volume and variety of stone, whilst at the same time exploring multiple carving styles and formats.     Along with pallets laden with door and window sills etc.,  I was able to hone my carving skills on bas relief plaques, limestone fountains, entrance signs and a slew of decorative fireplace surrounds;  the samples and test pieces of which are these days scattered in and around the Birdhaven Studio Sculpture Garden.   And so it was through this long and involved process that I went on to create and establish my signature “Carved for Full Immersion in the Real World” Collection Series Marble Sculpture.

Deep Winter Snowscape, Feb 5, 16

It must be said however, that while I was busy experimenting with revolutionary methods of carving,  Woody Creek was growing up fast – “catching up” with the far glitzier neighborhoods elsewhere in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

Considering the astonishing number of mansions that have popped up here there and practically everywhere in and around Woody Creek,  perhaps the time (or tolerance)  for this sort of rural ‘land use application‘,  great as it has been for me, is finally at an end.

Birdhaven Workshop Studio, View along The Arbor, Woody Creek CO. The Deep Winter Snowscape, Part Two 2014 02 10

And besides, while it was indeed a great spot in which to carve,  winter conditions can often prove quite challenging in the extreme.  Strange as this may sound,  sometimes it actually feels good to dig the workshop out – the air is astonishingly crisp! – and sometimes it quite definitely “don‘t” !

‘Direct Method’ Reductionist marble carving, by hand,  is quite challenging enough, and the extraction of 80 to 90 percent of the material,  as is standard with my Collection Series Curvilinear Marble Sculpture,  is not made any easier when Mother Nature takes one of her wintry bad turns.   To battle my way through the elements,  and endure the full wrath of a Colorado Rocky Mountain winter…  can at times present a quite daunting prospect, even for me.

Lovely as it was to carve so much stone in the magnificent setting of Woody Creek,  suffice to say that I now feel that I am at the point whereby a more sophisticated, 21st Century, environment would prove most beneficial to both my own well-being,  and the ever more complex, demanding, and advanced sculpture that I aim to create over the coming years.

What began as a rough shelter in which to carve uniform blocks of masonry has grown into the unlikely arena in which my radical “Carved for Full Immersion in the Real World” Curvilinear Marble Sculpture was born.    But time waits for no one, and so I will be relocating the workshop to a place where the needs of carving fine, delicate marble, as opposed to blocks of identical limestone,  will at last be fully accommodated.

Never again will I carve here in Woody Creek,  but that said,  I am not looking to move out of the Roaring Fork Valley.   At this point however, just where the new workshop will be located however remains to be seen.   I am optimistic that I will be in a position to announce an address sooner, rather than later.  And once I am back in business, and ‘up to speed‘,   I will again continue to explore the mysterious translucent nature of my signature Curvilinear Marble Sculpture.    With the completion of the Autumn of 14 Collection,  ‘Curvilinear Campfire’, shown ↓ below,  marks the point where I left off,  and as such is to set the benchmark once work resumes in the new improved facility.

And so I’d say that now would be a great time to visit my  Birdhaven Studio Gallery.    Witness for yourself the workshop, the conditions and environment in which my entire ‘Woody Creek’ body of work was carved.   See for yourself just what photographs are unable to convey.   But most of all, please, stay tuned for announcements, developments, and all the latest news regarding the move!




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