Patrick Dougherty Builds Sculpture on Sundial

Sarah McQueen – Video by Kyle Behnke –

Patrick Dougherty, a renowned artist and sculptor, has come to Stevens Point to sculpt a structure from tree branches and sticks with the help of students and volunteers from the community.

Dougherty creates his sculptures by hooking, weaving and bending sticks together. He begins by anchoring branches into the ground and shaping the other sticks around that base. He uses smaller, better-looking sticks as a final layer to cover blemishes and make the structures more attractive. When the structure is complete, viewers will be able to walk between and even inside the structures he has created.

“I’ve had to figure out what birds and beavers already know, and that’s that sticks have an inherent method of joining. They snag on each other,” Dougherty said. “In other words, if you drag it through the woods, it catches on every living thing. They’ve got an infuriating tendency to tangle, and so that very tangle is the simplest method of joining that we are using on hooking these sticks together.”

This sculpture was inspired by a garden Dougherty saw in England. He saw large, clipped bushes there, and it gave him the idea for this architectural structure.

Dougherty built his first piece in North Carolina, and his career took off from there. He has created over 250 sculptures and has even built internationally in Scotland, Japan and Brussels. He has also sculpted within Wisconsin in Wausau, Madison and Sheboygan. He began his project here on April 1 and expects to finish on April 23.

“I was in administration early on in my life, but this has really been my love, and I’ve spent a lot of time in it,” Dougherty said. “As the career has matured, I’ve spent a lot of time working with saplings and trying to build things that will cause people to come running.”

Dougherty uses the assistance of volunteers to complete his sculptures. There are usually up to six volunteers at a time helping on his current sculpture in the sundial between the Noel Fine Arts Center and the Learning Resource Center. Many students, mostly from the art department and the natural resources department, have also been helping.

“I just love Patrick,” Kaleena Hastings, an art major who has volunteered her time to help, said. “He is so easy to work with, and he is so patient, and he really keeps you going. He really knows how to work with people who have never done this kind of thing before.”

Students were working for almost a month before Dougherty arrived to gather all the necessary materials for the project. The sticks needed sufficient time to dry out before they would be suitable for use. The sculptures are built mainly out of willow branches that came from the Schmeeckle Nature Reserve just off campus and Tree Haven.

“I come by sticks honestly, as we all do,” Dougherty said.

Volunteers are still needed to help finish the structure. Anyone interested in volunteering should email Keven Brunett at, or sign up in room 163 of the NFAC. No experience is necessary, and volunteers will be needed through April 23.

“I think that everyone contains the shadow of life of our hunting and gathering past,” Dougherty said. “Kids know about that. They know that sticks are weapons, tools, pieces of a wall. So we have kind of a building instinct that we inherit from our forefathers, our deep forefathers.”

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