Art Inspired by Nature: The Sensual Work of Sculptor and Furniture Maker David Holzapfel…

November 4th, 2009 § 1

D Holzapfel Tutuila 23" x 15" walnut, spalted yellow birch base abstracted leaf form, samoan leaves

Tutuila, 23″ x 15″, walnut/spalted yellow birch

This week’s edition of ‘Art Inspired by Nature‘ features the work of talented Vermont artist David Holzapfel. But before I begin to write about David and his process, I have to get something off my chest – a confession, so to speak. You see, when I first spotted ‘Tutuila’, the sculptural table pictured above, sitting in David Holzapfel’s studio/gallery – I wanted very badly to snap it up and run away. Before I knew what was happening, ‘Tutuila’ reached right out to my greedy little heart and grabbed it. From that moment on, I could barely focus on what David was saying, (it’s a good thing I took notes). I covet this piece. Of course I didn’t tell David about my wicked impulse, and I continued to calmly and cooly converse about his process. But my eyes wandered back to ‘Tutuila’ whenever they could get away with it. And now – well it feels good to let that cat out of the bag. I felt bad sinning, all alone in my thoughts.

I know you don’t blame me, do you? I mean, just look at Tutuila – she is a modern, botanical fantasy. Any plant-lover would fall in love with this table. In case you are unfamiliar with it, Tutuila is the largest island in American Samoa. David’s ‘Tutuila’ plays with the abstracted form of a Samoan taro leaf. But the ‘leaves’ forming the base of the table are actually made from spalted yellow birch, which he has cut into a graceful pattern. Once completed, David applied a thin, satin finish to the decorative wood, (the marbled veins are actually caused by fungi), bringing out the spalted markings and giving the surface a silken hand. It is truly gorgeous. And ‘Tutuila’ is just the beginning…

David Holzapfel and his wife Michelle, featured in last week’s post, are both remarkable artists. David, like Michelle, has worked with wood for over thirty years. However their individual styles, processes and creations are quite different. David began working as an apprentice to a Vermont furniture maker in 1973, though much of his skill and artistry was acquired through self-guided exploration. Many of David’s pieces have modern, minimalist influences; working with natural geometric shapes and forms. David is a sculptor and a designer – his primary focus is on commissioned furniture work. Individuals and businesses custom order furnishings from David which he designs and builds in his Marlboro studio for clients all over the country. But honestly, I feel that simply referring to David’s work as ‘furnishings’ is inaccurate – for they truly are functional works of art…

D Holzapfel Newlyweds Table 18 36 37, spalted yellow birch and scorched oak

Newlyweds Table, 18″ x 36″ x 37″, spalted  yellow birch / scorched oak

David’s process begins years before his pieces are actually made – with the wood itself. Large logs, many from old and hazardous trees, (unusable to most manufacturing mills due to bits of metal from old taps and spikes), are cut with an Alaskan chainsaw mill and stacked in sheds to dry. These hardwood slices eventually make their way into David’s work as table tops or other components in his designs. ‘Hollows’, (such as the one pictured below), are the cylindrical remnants of trees rotted from within. These logs with empty interiors are carved out and shaped into bases for furniture, such as the ‘Miller’ and ‘Katzman’ tables pictured below…

Holzapfel Hollowed Log

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D Holzapfel, Miller Dining Table 2000, 29" x 54" spalted yellow birch and glass

Miller Dining Table, 29″ x 54″, spalted yellow birch and glass

D Holzapfel Katzman Dining Table 1999, 20" x 62", Scorched blister maple

Katzman Dining Table, 20″ x 62″, scorched blister-maple

D Holzapfel Prohibited Where Void, 18" x 52" x 24", spalted blister maple, red maple, yellow birch

Prohibited Where Void , 18″ x 52″ x 24″, spalted blister maple/red maple and yellow birch

Like Michelle, David also works with wood burls, (pictured in last week’s post). This dense, heavy material is cut and carved according to the artists design – forming furniture bases like the one pictured below on this very geometric, glass-topped piece called ‘Triangles’…

D Holzapfel Triangles,   18" x 54" x 20", spalted cherry burl, spalted yellow birch, glass

Triangles, 18″ x 54″ x 20″, spalted cherry burl, spalted yellow birch and glass

Fallen branches and tree roots frequently appear in David’s designs. The contrast this artist achieves by pairing smooth, flat heart-wood surfaces and the more sinuous, organic root and branch forms is quite dramatic. The benches, desks and tables made with these very different trees components are absolutely stunning…

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David Holzapfel at work in his studio, Marlboro, Vermont

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Birch Song, 33.5″ x 37″ x 30″, spalted yellow birch burl top, yellow birch root base

Most of David’s work is created on commission, (although he does have some pieces, such as the tempting ‘Tutuila’, ‘Void Where Prohibited’ and ‘Birch Song’, above, on hand). A prospective collector usually meets with David at his studio and together they discuss design possibilities and look over the natural materials on hand. David has been commissioned to create large dining tables, site-specific furniture installations, chairs, benches, sculpture, and many more items than I can possibly list. His work has appeared in House Beautiful and Vermont Magazine, among other publications, and his pieces have been exhibited nationally in museum shows and galleries.

At the moment, David is working on an extraordinary chaise in his studio. I hope to slip back over and snap a shot when it is completed. There is so much more to see at Applewoods Studio than I can cover here in two short, introductory posts. In order to more fully appreciate David’s process, and to see more of his beautiful work, please visit his website, linked here and below. Of course, nothing can take the place of an an actual studio-visit with the Holzapfels. The Applewoods Studio in Marlboro, Vermont is open to the public every week, on select days, (see hours listed on the website), and by appointment…

D Holzapfel Heaven and Earth Bonsai Table, 16" 31" 25', maple root w:embedded rock and scorched oak

Heaven and Earth Bonsai Table, 16″ x 31″ x 25″, maple root with embedded rock and scorched oak.

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For further information about David’s work, please visit the artist’s website: David Hozapfel: Applewoods Studios

The artist’s work may be seen and/or commissioned directly from his studio

Thank you again, David and Michelle, for being so generous with your time and work.

All photographs in this post, (except the third from top), are © David Holzapfel, and may not be used or reproduced without consent.

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Article copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without consent. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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