sculpting "Ancestral Spirit" in Alaska with Junichi (long version, part 2)

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Junichi stands on top of the figure’s head and chest as it’s readied for lifting.
This is the second part of the extended sequence that details the building of "Ancestral Spirit." The team was lead by many time world champion Junichi Nakamura. Here's the first part of this sequence and here's the short version if you're just not into all the details.

Arm and spear: This is the final major component of the sculpture. Shinichi is working on additional small pieces for the front of our site

Tightening the straps: Proper placement and tension of the lifting straps is essential as one wrong move can mean disaster

Figure nearly in place: The head and chest piece is skillfully lifted into place by the lift operator

Cutting weld inlets: Junichi uses a V-chisel to cut channels in the upper weld surface to make it easier to get water into the weld

Head and chest in place: You can see me looking for the camera from behind the massive head and chest piece

Straps removed: We’ll move on to the next step now that a crucial step has been completed safely

Strapping in the eagle: Lifting the eagle into place requires much more care as it’s more delicate and must be placed higher

Wide shot of site: In the center you can see the foundation and figure. The eagle is to the left and the arm/spear to the right

The competition was very demanding physically and took a lot out of me. I remember at the beginning of the event, Junichi cautioned me not to work so hard. There was a significant language barrier between us, but I got the gist of what he meant: this competition was a marathon, not a sprint.

Eagle ready for lifting: The straps have been carefully placed so that the wings won’t break and the sculpture won’t spin while in the air

Weld inlets: As he did with the figure piece, Junichi cuts weld inlets for the eagle to aid the welding process

Junichi waits for the eagle: Junichi directs the lift operator from atop the highest scaffolding

Eagle in flight: Our massive eagle actually takes flight for a few short minutes!

The finished sculpture stood approximately 24 feet high. My Fairbanks 2004 video contains images of “Ancestral Spirit” and other sculptures that placed in the multi-block competition as well.

The eagle has landed: Once the eagle has touched down, it’s carefully shifted into the proper position

Final positioning: Because the lift is still handling the weight of the eagle, it’s possible for Junichi and me to nudge it into place

Scale of the sculpture: This photo of Shinichi and me helps demonstrate the scale of the sculpture. I’m a bit over 6’5” with my snow boots on

Eagle in place: As it gets late, we can at least be satisfied that we got the eagle into place

My only regret from this experience was that I missed part of the awards ceremony the next day because I overslept when I decided that I needed an afternoon nap. NOT the way you should finish out, especially when you're on Junichi's team and have a decent chance of finishing well.

Sun shield: We use Tyvek wrap to protect the upper parts of the sculpture from damaging sunlight

Ice welding: Shinichi uses a giant syringe of sorts to shoot cold water into the weld between eagle and figure. It will quickly freeze

Right arm and spear attached: All of the major components are in place and finishing work on the sculpture can begin

Right arm and spear: Shinichi (bottom right) uses a chainsaw to correct the weld surfaces during attachment of the last major component

Junichi and Shinichi: They work on the base of the sculpture and likely discuss the next steps

Ice sign: We placed this sign at the front of our site. The sign’s wording is included in the text section below. Note the use of white ice

Working on the details: Shinichi works at the base. Notice that the front side scaffolding has been removed

Detailing the sculpture: Junichi and I work on various smaller details of the sculpture. Photo by Patrick Endres

The printed message on the small ice sign (pictured above) read as follows:
“The spirit of the warrior's dead father has transformed into an eagle. This eagle has come to warn the brave warrior against imminent danger. The eagle guides him through the upheaval as he becomes a respected leader.”

Touching up the figure: Junichi works on small details of the figure from the back side scaffolding

Weedburner torch: Junichi uses a large torch to quickly “glass” part of the figure. (slightly warmer weather allows this) Photo: P. Endres

Adding the headdress: Early on, I carved numerous small tassles for the headdress. Junichi carefully attaches them as we near the finish

Smaller torch: Junichi works on smaller details with a smaller propane torch

In the end, we earned 2nd place in the Realistic category for our efforts. First place went to a remarkable Dragon Boat by a Chinese team and we placed just ahead of an amazing tiger sculpture created by a team led by Steve and Heather Brice.

Nearing the end: This is just before the scaffolding is removed. Note that the rectangular base is largely undetailed

Titling the piece: Junichi has just completed freehand carving of the sculpture title into the base of the piece, one of his signature elements

Final photo by Patrick Endres: Junichi added a few more pieces (see the red circle in the last photo) for the sculpture’s final photoshoot

End of the competition: This overexposed photo shows the piece at competition end. Note the bottom of the headdress circled in red

Patrick Endres ( retains the copyrights to his photos used as part of this sequence and are used with permission. Shinichi Sawamura and Junichi Nakamura have authorized use of their likenesses and artwork in this sequence as well. Duplication or republication of these images or text without permission is prohibited.

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