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Art studio, dining pavilion, cozy yurts, cut flower barn studio, miles of hiking trails, 4 acre lake, organic veg and flower farm on 98 acres: completely private and exclusively yours.

A woodland retreat venue for intimate meetings, workshops and gatherings in beautiful Goochland County, Virginia

September 24, 2021

Sculpture in the woods of Virginia

The giant troll….it’s a long story

Large troll sculpture in the woods
Troll sculpture by Kim Hill

What was I thinking?! No truly, what in the world?

Those were the thoughts running on a loop in my mind while creating this crazy guy. My hands burned because my gloves weren’t water proof(rookie mistake). My shoulders ached from mixing concrete. The dirt mound I was building him on was crumbling away under the chicken wire. It was challenging to say the least! The plan was not completely thought through and let’s face it, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I couldn’t find a tutorial on youtube for this madness.

But see, I am prone to crazy ideas. It’s a sickness probably. I should get some counseling, I’ve been told. But like moth to flame, there I go again. Following my ideas down paths most wouldn’t go.

But what if it works?! That’s the thing. I love the challenge of the absurd. The completion of a vision that pesters until I just go for it. I have a long history of totally elaborate parade floats, golf cart parades, and even a couple first place prizes for boat parades. Absurd I know, but the shenanigans is pegged at 11 and I live for that.

So when the idea struck me that I wanted to create a feature on one of our hiking trails, it gripped me. How cool to turn the corner and be surprised with a folly unexpected! For me, I thought troll. A cute, quirky troll popping his head up from the ground. Not his whole head, no. That would be difficult. Ha! Turns out, half a head was plenty challenging and almost beyond my abilities!

So, to save you some trouble when you now think, hey I wanna do this! Let me tell you what I learned and hopefully it will either help you have success or wave you off this insanity once and for all.

I started with a mound of dirt. Mistake #1. A better way to go would be rocks. Dirt too but also rocks. I could have used less concrete at the end of day and had a sturdier foundation to start. I then pounded in rebar rods into said mound thinking, that’s what they do with concrete, right? Seriously, what in the world, I had no business doing this. But rebar is a must for support, so ultimately a good call.

Then by logic, I thought, concrete also needs a substrate to cling to so I busted out the chicken wire. This actually worked pretty well. It’s a bit flimsy but with some fiddling around I was able to mold a rough substrate on which to sculpt his head.

So then I started mixing concrete, by hand. Mistake #2. Oh my goodness don’t do this! This was by far the worst part. I was thinking it would dry out quickly, so small batches were best. So one 5 gallon bucket at a time I mixed with my trowel! No, no, no. Wrong. I should have enlisted help and had someone mixing in at least a wheel barrow with shovels. Or even a mixer on a drill. So that by the time I was done piling on one load the next would be ready and waiting. Oh hind site, you are 20/20!

Also, did you know there are many kinds of concrete?! I did not know this. Of course. But I did figure something out…the chunky kind better for the first rough shape. If mixed it a bit dry, it forms up better and keeps it’s shape, sort of. See this is another big ah ha moment…concrete doesn’t play well with gravity. I don’t know why, but I didn’t anticipate that either. Maybe it’s because my preferred sculpture medium is clay and it’s wonderfully compliant to any shape I desire. Concrete, not so much! Can I just say that his nostrils are a thing of exceptional beauty now that you know that?!

Once I created the basic shape with the chunky stuff, I started with finer concrete. I’m not sure but it was almost stucco-like. This enabled me to achieve a smoother finish and work on some details. And the dreaded nostrils. Gravity was a driving force in the ultimate shape of Mr. Troll’s decidedly triangular shaped head. I could lie and say I meant to do that, but you now know I’d be lying.

From the beginning I did want to incorporate live plants into his design to help make him more one with his environment. So I left pockets of dirt open for his eyebrows and his hair. Actually I’d say mistake #3 would be not having enough dirt behind his head to support his hair and his actual cranium for that matter! But thankfully, the back of his head doesn’t face the trail and I’m ok ignoring this defect for now! I finished him off by rubbing dirt into the damp concrete to create texture and help him blend better with his environment. And I gotta say, no regrets. I like him and he has held up to one winter so that’s a relief. I was worried what a freeze would do to him. He made it!

So, I hope this long story of the troll in the woods helped inspire your own shenanigans or at least entertained. When he was completed I swore, never would I ever do this again….well, time has passed.

And just look! There’s this big mysterious mound by the lake under some trees and it’s got me thinking…knowing what I know now, I could do it again! No seriously, hear me out. When I look at that mound I see a big pregnant belly. Mother Earth. Lying on her back, napping in the shade, surrounded by wildflowers. You see it right? No? Just me? Ok I’ll google counselors next.

  1. Heather says:

    Love your insanity and creativity!!💜 Can’t wait to see mother earth 😆

  2. Guillermo Guzman says:

    You are a bit crazy and that comes from a person who participated in the building of some of the Shenanigans you speak about: Golf carts and boats. This one I can not take any credit for as you did it on your own however I am game whenever you decide to do Mother Earth. I don’t picture it yet but I am sure I will.

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