Driftwood puts sculptor in her happy place

Sharon Cunningham with a stag she created from driftwood. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Sharon Cunningham with a stag she created from driftwood. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Meet Zeus, possibly the quietest stag in Otago.

He is also cheap to keep, does not require feeding and is proving quite a drawcard on his roadside location near Karitane.

Zeus is the creation of East Otago woman Sharon Cunningham, who has been making driftwood animals for several years.

She started with some small pieces, including a poodle, and then progressed to some larger pieces, including a pony, a pig and piglets and a dragon. ‘‘I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan so I had to make a dragon,’’ she said.

Miss Cunningham, who has a background as a product designer, said her driftwood critters were a hobby but she was keen to make bespoke pieces  and turn it into a business.

She collected wood from beaches whenever she travelled, from Kaikoura to Southland, taking just what she could carry.‘‘Certain pieces will speak to me ... I see a hip and a leg or tail and facial feature. Different pieces I know will suit different things.’’The good thing about driftwood was it was naturally sea-cured. The combination of saltwater and sun made it very hard and she used a reciprocating saw to cut larger pieces.‘‘The days I’ve got my gumboots on and covered in sawdust, I’m pretty happy. I just really enjoy it; it’s my happy place,’’ she said.

It was a fairly time-consuming process; making a big piece such as Zeus took about a month. Zeus was popular with passing motorists and one person left a note saying he made them smile every time they saw him.

Miss Cunningham was in the process of making a large horse and  also intended tackling some exotic animals, possibly a rhino or a giraffe.

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