"Sticking" with Patrick Dougherty

Friday August 24 2012


Jennifer WatlingtonJennifer Watlington ’13 spent three weeks in June working with internationally known “stick” artist Patrick Dougherty, who, in the last 30 years, has built 230 sculptures around the world made from twined saplings.

Learn more about Patrick Dougherty at these links:

The New York Times; Environmental Graffiti; and Dougherty's website.

“He’s so great to work for,” Jennifer said. “He’s so patient and he tells such great stories.”

Jennifer was one of two full-time interns who helped Dougherty build a castle-like structure, dubbed “Room By Room,” at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Museum. “My hands were on every piece of this project,” she said. About 20 other volunteers worked part time on the sculpture, including museum staff.

 “It took hard work and dedication, but it was well worth it,” she said. Jennifer helped with everything from digging 3- to 4-foot holes for the anchoring sticks to stripping and weaving cherry, maple, and oak saplings. She even built scaffolding and climbed up on the structure to make adjustments and remove strings that hold the piece together until it’s finished.

“It’s beautiful,” Jennifer said of their finished piece. “Just to walk in there is really cool.”

A resident of Lynchburg who transferred to LC from Central Virginia Community College, Jennifer, 27, is a graphic design major with a minor in studio art. She stumbled upon the internship with Dougherty on line, and was thrilled to be selected.  Traveling to Massachusetts was also a new world for her, as she had never been that far from home. Because the internship was unpaid, Jennifer said she was grateful for an LC-Cares stipend, funded by faculty and staff, which made the trip possible. Richard Pumphrey, professor of art, recommended her for the stipend.

Jennifer WatlingtonDougherty told Jennifer that he got the inspiration for his stick structures from childhood, when children use sticks for horses, guns, batons, and brooms. “Everybody can relate to a stick,” Jennifer said.

Dougherty finishes each one of his works in three weeks. Most of them are large, outdoor pieces, although he does some for interior spaces. He relies heavily on volunteers.

He had this to say about Jennifer:

"I really appreciated her work. She has many skills that made her perfect for this endeavor. She is very good with people and is a skilled problem solver. Her work ethic, along with her understanding of the creative process and her ability to work with unfamiliar materials, made her an excellent artist's assistant. It is my fervent hope that Jennifer is able to find a place in the world of making." 

Jennifer said Dougherty treats all his volunteers well, including those who only work for a few hours on a project. For every sculpture Dougherty constructs, he buys a new pair of gloves. At the end, he has every volunteer sign the gloves, which he hangs on the walls of his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. “I think that’s a nice thing for him to do,” Jennifer said.