Flight Patterns

Flight Patterns

About The Artist

Dorothy O'Connor • Atlanta, GA

I went to school for English literature and studio arts and a few years later (now 20 years ago), went back to school for photography. As an installation artist and fabricator though, I am largely self taught. I use my ideas and concepts as inspiration to experiment with new materials and learn new disciplines. It was this practice that inspired me to make my first 3-D bird out of paper. Since then, I have made thousands of paper birds. As the birds grew in popularity, I began to experiment with different materials so that the birds could “live” outside without cover for long periods of time. At this point, I have developed a solid technique for making birds in flight out of different types of wood veneers. I use waterproof wood glue with a marine quality spar-urethane coat, making them appropriate for outdoors. I began by cutting each piece and design by hand but now have the help of a diy machine. I personally put each bird together by using waterproof wood glue and furniture clamps


Artist website

Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

Depending on the project, but definitely for my smaller birds, I usually use paper backed 10 mil wood veneer. I have worked with just straight up veneer by actually gluing craft paper to the back - but due to the labor intensity, I reserve this method for larger funded specialty projects. For my smaller to medium sized birds, I have created a pattern that I can run through my DIY cutting machine. I either create the overlay design to be machine cut or just cut it by hand. I then steam, shape and glue each piece separately. Once each is dry, I glue and clamp them together in stages. Once the bird is assembled and dry, I do a little sanding if needed and coat it with marine quality spar-urethane. For the larger birds, I figure out a pattern using paper and then trace and cut each wood veneer piece by hand, then assemble them like the smaller machine cut birds.

What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

I am very inspired by nature and the natural world. Wood is so beautiful! And there are so many varieties. Plus there is something poetic about taking material of the earth and creating a creature of the air with it. I think by using wood veneer, which might often be overlooked and seem commonplace to make something sculptural, gives it (and hopefully trees) a potential new appreciation. I think trees often get taken for granted because they are so familiar (and can’t audibly speak). I hope that by presenting the familiar in this way, somehow changes that. I also love the connection that birds and trees share, and hopefully by creating birds out of wood, I honor that. Also, birds are incredible! They have much symbology and make for wonderful storytelling.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

I think the fact that they 3D birds are made from wood veneer makes them very unusual. The birds are hollow and very lightweight but incredibly sturdy. All of the wood veneer sculptural pieces that I have seen have been 2D wall art. I think the fact that these birds are not only 3D, but can also live outside and functionally carry things, makes them very unique. Plus, I can make just about any species which is really fun.