​A North Carolina sculptor branches out

A North Carolina sculptor turns sticks into a... 06:29

With sticks like these, we know an artist who's always BRANCHING OUT. With Anna Werner, let's go into the woods:

Deep in the North Carolina woods, a work crew looks like it's clearing underbrush, or gathering firewood. But they're actually collecting the raw materials to build something incredible: a forest king's castle, a hedge full of faces, a twisting maze -- all woven branch by branch, twig by twig.

They are the grand designs of sculptor Patrick Dougherty, also known as the "Stickman."

What feeling is he trying evoke in these passageways? "I want people to feel a sense of exploration," he said. "You know you're in another place and transported through the forest curtain back to the Garden of Eden."

Paradise found, for fans of all ages.

Kids love them ("Yesterday we were overwhelmed with children," he said), but so does the art world. Dougherty has won both the Henry Moore and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. He's even been the subject of a documentary, called "Bending Sticks."

Cavorting inside Patrick Dougherty's "Boogie Woogie" (2014), at Hermann Park in Houston, Texas. Frank Konhouse

In the film, by Penelope Maunsell and Kenny Dalsheimer, Dougherty said it takes about a tractor-trailer load of sticks to make a big piece. "Maybe that's six tons of sticks, I don't know -- that's a lot of sticks!"

His creations seem to have a universal appeal; they draw people in.

"I don't really feel like Patrick needs an interpreter for his work," said Linda Johnson, chief curator at the North Carolina Museum of Art. "And I think that is really the power of it, is that you don't need someone to explain it to you.

"A lot of people look at it and say things like, 'I don't like art, but I like this.'"

Werner caught up with Dougherty as he built the 256th of his creations -- what he calls, his "stickworks." It generally takes 21 days to build one.

He said this one, at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, "represents kind of three intersecting passageways that make a bit of a knot, in the tradition of a hedge knot garden. In this case, the hedges are big enough to walk through."

Sculptor Patrick Dougherty with CBS News' Anna Werner, inside a stickwork sculpture being constructed at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. CBS News

Here, as everywhere he goes, local volunteers come out of the woodwork to spend three intense weeks laboring by his side.

Asked how volunteers know what to do, Dougherty replied, "We've all been children. We just know everything to know about about sticks. It was our first building material."

It's like watching a barn-raising crossed with a giant game of pick-up sticks.

"Everyone's had that childhood experience of playing with sticks. And it didn't take that long to reignite those ultimate urges," he said.

At each installation, Dougherty acts not only as sculptor, but team coach for his volunteers ["Drop 'em back up underneath there. It doesn't work on the big ones, but on the little ones it'll work out pretty good"].

"Ain't Misbehavin'" (2010) by Patrick Dougherty, at Winthrop University, Rock Hill, S.C. Zan Maddox

Werner asked, "Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just do all this yourself?"

"It would definitely not be as much fun," Dougherty laughed. "You know, we have people of every age. We could have the grandmother and the hippie and the biker chick and somebody all working together in a big crew. And that mix of people, it adds a lot to the energy of the sculpture."

You can't help but want to pick up a stick, and give it a try. He makes it sound so easy.

"This is the end you want to stick in the wall," he encourages. "There you go. That'll be good. Just push it on in there. Yep, twisting is good."

"You know, I didn't work out today, but now I don't have to!" said Werner. "And you do this how many times a day?"