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

November 4th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

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

hollowstrip2

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

availbirch

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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Art Inspired by Nature – Raku Masterworks by Artist Richard Foye

September 30th, 2009 § 10 comments § permalink

R Foye, Raku metallic glaze vase

~ Large raku vessel with bronze metallic glaze ~

R Foye pot firing~ A raku urn with lid during glaze firing ~

R Foye at studio~ Artist Richard Foye at his South Newfane, Vermont studio ~

I caught up with my friend, artist Richard Foye, on a beautiful September afternoon while he was busy at work in his South Newfane, Vermont studio. Last month, I featured one of Richard’s beautiful raku vessels in my post, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors”, and I received a number of emailed questions about his work. Richard’s vases and vessels make stunning centerpieces for the table, where they function as either a solo act or center stage for floral arrangements… and his dramatic urns make intriguing ornaments and focal points for the home or seasonal garden. Many of us are as eager to bring the beauty of nature indoors as we are to enhance it within our gardens, especially at this time of year. In light of the interest, I gave Richard a call and asked him if he might be willing to give us a tour of his studio and share some of his inspiration and creations on The Gardener’s Eden. Richard very generously allowed me to observe and photograph him working in his studio while he turned pieces on his wheel, and later fired several urns, vases and vessels. As he worked, the artist took the time to explain how his beautiful, naturally inspired pieces are created. I have collected Richard’s work for a number of years, and while I thought I understood his technique, after spending the afternoon at his studio I realized there is so much more to this artist’s work than meets the eye.  I couldn’t wait to share his amazing process with you in this third installment of “Art Inspired by Nature” on The Gardener’s Eden…

(click to enlarge any photo in this essay for a closer view)

Ninebark,(Physocarpus) 'Diablo', False Indigo, (Baptisia foliage) Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana),Queen Anne's Lace'(Anthriscus sylvestris Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

Richard Foye began making pottery in 1969, during his senior year at The University of Vermont. A philosophy major, Richard accompanied his friend Ken Pick to pottery class one day, where he discovered his life’s passion. Watching this artist at his wheel in the late afternoon light, it was easy to see why his vessels are so spectacular. Richard is in love with his work. His hands move in a steady yet fluid motion, instinctively molding curvaceous lines and sensual forms from the clay. Throughout the 70’s, Richard worked primarily with stoneware and porcelain when, after nearly a decade, he began to experiment with raku. From that point on, Richard found himself focusing on this Far Eastern technique he has come to favor for both its immediacy and serendipitous results. The word raku loosely translates to ‘unexpected, joyful surprise‘. My conversation with Richard naturally turned to philosophy at this point, discussing the difference between what Westerners might call ‘accidents‘ and what Easterners refer to as ‘incidents‘.  The raku method was originally developed in Korea, and later adopted by Japanese artisans. In raku, a pot is drawn out from the fire while still hot and then allowed to cool quickly, producing unexpected, often dramatic results. The ‘incidental’ finishes found on raku pieces are inherent to this quick cooling process. Over time Richard developed his own fascinating techniques and signature glazes, (inspired by ancient Near Eastern and Japanese methods), to create the exquisite works of art shown here.

Although he describes himself as impatient, Richard is in fact very methodic in his process. The white stoneware clay he uses is a proprietary mix he creates with rainwater in his studio. After working his pieces into sensual forms, influenced by travels to Southern Spain and Andalusia among other places, he sets them aside to dry-cure before he begins the bisque firing and finishing process. The time to complete a series of pots, from start to finish, is generally six weeks…

R Foye clay~ Richard’s white stoneware clay is hand mixed with rainwater  ~

R Foye hands at wheel 2~ Richard working at his wheel ~

R Foye uncured, unglazed pots

~ Unfinished clay pieces will dry cure for before bisque firing ~

After curing, Richard’s vessels and urns are bisque fired to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit and then coated with a hand mixed glaze. His signature metallic finishes are a combination of naturally occurring minerals, (including feldspar and calcium borate), inspired by those used in ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Once they are dry, Richard’s pieces are glaze fired to 1,600 degrees fahrenheit, and quickly removed with tongs while still hot. The process makes for a dramatic show…

R Foye pot firing~ Glazed pieces are fired at 1,600 degrees fahrenheit ~

R Foye firing pot

~ Richard monitors the urn, gauging temperature by time and color ~

R Foye removing fired pot

~ According to the Far Eastern raku technique, the piece is removed while hot ~

From here, Richard’s process becomes positively fascinating to anyone inspired by nature and her beautiful botanical world. While still red hot, Richard places his vessels within a nest of hand harvested straw and wild grasses from his field – he also tosses pine cones into this smoking, combustible mix. When a lid is placed atop his make-shift ‘double boiler’, the resulting heat, smoke and flame put on quite a show. Meanwhile, inside the vibrating pot, the straw fuses with the glaze to form exquisite, unpredictable patterns on Richard’s shapely vessels.

R Foye natural materials, pinecones~ Richard adds natural materials, including pine cones, grass and straw ~

R Foye materials before and after

~ Natural materials help create the one-of-a-kind finishes in Richard’s work ~

R Foye Raku process

~ The white-hot piece is placed within a pot of natural materials ~

R Foye Raku process 2

~ Resulting combustion makes for dramatic smoke, vibrations and sound ~

Once the pot cools down from the secondary glazing process, Richard removes the lid, and brushes away the burned botanical remnants to reveal what are always delightfully inexact results. Raku – the art of joyful surprise…

R Foye Raku process smoking kettle

~ At last, the lid is removed to reveal raku’s surprise… ~

Raku process emerging pot

~ A finished piece, still hot, surrounded by the natural, burned remnants ~

R Foye Raku vase

The cooling vessel, (note the grass still attached where it has burned in lines)

Richard uses the raku method to create a wide range of extraordinary pieces – from large metallic-glazed urns, (works of art suitable for the indoor display of flowers, branches and grass), to statuesque crackle-glazed vessels, ( I envision them beckoning at the end of a garden path or shady corner), to smaller pieces, including beautiful table-sized vases and ewers. Richard also continues to work with stoneware, creating garden-art such as the all-season lantern pictured below…

R Foye urn, metallic glazed

~ A large, metallic glazed raku urn ~

R Foye Raku urn, turquoise crackle glaze

~ A large, crackle glazed raku urn ~

R Foye Raku handled vessel

~ A metallic glazed raku ewer with handle ~

R Foye Lantern~ One of Richard’s very popular stoneware lanterns, here in his garden ~

Richard Foye shows his work in galleries and craft exhibitions throughout New England, and at home in Vermont. The Rock River Artists group holds an open studio tour every summer, and to many a gardener’s pleasure, Richard’s studio is conveniently located one door down from Olallie Daylily Gardens. The combination is more than tempting to this nature lover on an autumn day. If you would like to make a visit to Richard’s studio, be sure to call ahead, as he participates in a wide variety of craft shows and artisan exhibits throughout the year. But if you tell him you read about his raku process on The Gardener’s Eden, I am sure he will be more than delighted to give you a tour when he is back at his studio home.

Thank you Richard, for generously sharing your time and your work with us, and always for your deep understanding of natural beauty…

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*Richard Foye does not have internet access at his studio, but he may be reached by calling 802-348-7927, (Richard’s South Newfane, Vermont studio is open by appointment, please call for directions). He is represented in New England by the Rice/Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

* Richard Foye’s pieces are currently priced at $35 -$410 *

The artist’s work may also be seen at the following craft festivals in New England this October:

October 2, 3 and 4, 2009, Hildene Foliage Art and Craft Festival,  Manchester, Vermont

October 9, 10 and 11, 2009, Stowe Foliage, Art and Craft Festival, Stowe, Vermont

October 17 – 18, 2009, Roseland Cottage Annual Arts and Crafts Festival, Woodstock, CT

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~ Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~

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