Everyone has a favorite place. It’s somewhere that evokes certain memories, emotions, and a relative sense of ease or comfort. For as long as I can remember, that place has been the beaches of New Jersey. Perhaps, some of the most memorable and favorite times of my formative years were the trips I took with family and friends to Sandy Hook, Sea Bright, and Long Branch to enjoy the ocean and beach. From the traffic to the sunburn, a short trip down Highway 36 to Ocean Ave. was always worth it.
As everyone knows, Hurricane Sandy changed that place forever. She came in and warped everything we once knew. That is why this next project was started. A few days after the historic “Super-Storm” I took to the beaches to assess the damage, and needless to say it was heartbreaking. Upon my walk on the beach I came across a piece of what looked like the pier that once stood there. For whatever reason, I felt obligated to take the piece of wood along with a few other similar pieces. I knew I could transform them from their mangled state back to something that reminded me of my favorite beach.
Once I took the wood home, I decided to dry it out and then create. The drying process took a few weeks, mainly from how soaked it had gotten from the storm. After all the pieces were dried, I removed all the remaining nails, and began the sanding process. It is amazing to see what a piece of 120 grit sandpaper can do to an almost depleted piece of debris. The one time pillar of the pier began to look the part. One coat of a clear wood paint followed by a heavy coat of some wood lacquer and the pieces of wood had been resurrected. I then took pieces of decorative rope and wrapped them around the wood as tight as I could and stapled it to the backside. I tried to resemble the ropes and lines found on boats, to give it that ocean vibe.
The finished product yielded something I will always keep with me. I figured they could be used as book ends and decorative purposes. To me, they represent the good, the bad, and everything in between of my favorite place. I gave the extra pieces to friends and family so they, too, could get a little sense of what I was feeling. If anything this project was created to rediscover what things once were, remember what happened, and begin to see what things may become.
This article was written by the artist Drew Koehler, who is an avid surfer and active volunteer for Room In Our Hearts. If you are interested in purchasing one of these NJ BEACH SCULPTURES please contact us. All proceeds go directly to RIOH to help furnish a room. The cost for one of these unique pieces from the aftermath of "Super Storm Sandy" are $50 each. (Sizes and shapes vary and are all unique. S/H is additional.)