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An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb

An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb

Few weeks ago, I got the privilege to get an exclusive media invite to meet the awesome driftwood sculptor and see his works of art, James Doran-Webb. I’ve got a quick moment with him and was able to get to know more about him, and of course I’ll be sharing it with everyone here in the Exotic Philippines blog.

I’ve never seen his works before, but I was pretty excited to meet someone like James and see this one of a kind artwork.

Come to think of it, he was able to turn these.

An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

Into these...

An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines
An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

When I enter his shop, I immediately notice and saw these huge driftwood sculptors that is really jaw dropping – for someone like me who’s never seen this kind of work.

Now, let’s get to know the artist slash sculptor of these amazing driftwood sculptures, James Doran-Webb.

How or why you’ve chosen Cebu?

I arrive here when I was 18, I was working in New York for custom jewelry company and then my boss said “Can you go to Cebu?” then I came, and I am still here.

Why driftwood?

I’ve always been into and bought antiques. So, it’s been a progression from antiques, old wood, to driftwood and here I am. But I’ve been making crafts for 25 years. I’ve started making paper mache, paper mache animals like giraffe, and items for kids.

How long does it take for you to finish one master piece? e.g. horse, the dragon, etc.

A horse might take myself and two assistants two months to make. If I was working alone it would take me 6 months to finish! I would estimate a horse sculpture takes 1,500 hours to make. My dragon took 10 times this!!
An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

How do you start on creating one of these sculptures? Do you sketch it first, or you start doing it right away?

I always sketch an idea before embarking on a new project. I research and let the concept percolate and when I feel confident that I am one with the animal will try to communicate that through a sketch.
An Interview with the Driftwood Sculptor James Doran-Webb Cebu Exotic Philippines

I then make a miniature or a maquette to test the composition.

Does anyone help you with sculpting, or you've done it by yourself?

I have a 6 man team who assist on the sculpting and 4 very skilled welders who I work with on the stainless steel skeletons or armatures. I typically make 3 projects at the same time and I will work for a couple of hours on each project mentoring my assistants before focusing on my own sculpture for some therapeutic solo time!


Tell us more about 80000trees.com and Bantayan Crafts, would you like to share with us why and how you started it and how is it going now?

Early 2013, brimming with optimism and full of good intentions, I met with Chief Abella of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of the Visayas, Philippines to propose planting indigenous species of trees on 3 hectares of land. Out came the Chief’s calculator and 20 minutes later I emerged from his office, slightly dizzy from the Chief’s lightning calculations, having agreed to plant 80,000 seedlings on 50 hectares of land over the course of the next 5 years. Having a little more time to reflect upon the figures I had agreed to, 80,000 seemed like a great rallying point and more importantly just within my capacity to achieve.

I started Bantayan Crafts in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). I had been working with the fishermen repairing and providing boats since the first week after the devastating typhoon hit and in some areas, perhaps due to the damaged coral beds, there just were not sufficient fish to support the fishermen in their livelihood.

On top of this, wives of the fishermen had a particularly tough lot – depending upon their sometimes carefree husbands for a very small income. When one takes time to really look into the micro economics of these families, sometimes with 6+ kids, it is difficult to fathom how they manage to make do. I wanted to use my knowledge of arts and crafts to assist the wives of the fishermen to become entrepreneurs.

Initially I spent a week with a group of ladies in Sillon, Bantayan, together with two Columbian friends of mine, and we designed a 50 piece range of crafts which we taught the women to make. I financed the first 10 point of sale display racks and placed them in Hotels and the airport (with the help of my friend Butch Carungay). The women are very creative and it does not take much to transfer a creative direction or a concept to them for them to take it, make it their own and run with it.

- end of interview -

I have actually a friend and college classmate working for him, and was able to ask her too. Finding out that James here is not only an artist and a sculptor, but he also have a mission not only for himself but also for the Filipinos through the 80000trees.com and Bantayan Crafts. With his projects, he was not only able to create jobs for the Filipinos, but also give opportunities.

At 80000trees.com have an online store, and all the profits of products there are going to plant trees. They are also looking forward into collaboration with some companies that would be interested to join their social projects.

The Bantayan Crafts don’t have a website yet but they do have a Facebook page where you can also purchase online some handcrafts. Their plans is to also put more displays in the places where tourists are visiting, since more sales means more woman that they can help – and I love that.

So, I encourage everyone to please support 80000trees and the Bantayan Craft, you’ll not only get a work of art, but also you’ll be able to help Mother Earth, the Filipino, and the Filipino women and their families.


Are you in London, James will be in Chelsea to show his sculptures, this May of 2015. Make sure to check James Doran-Webb's fan page for his latest works.



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Gay Aida Dumaguing (a.k.a. G) is a 29 years old Filipina traveler and food lover from Cebu Philippines who makes a living online as a SEO specialist, Social Media Manager, and Brand Ambassador. Follow her on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

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