Chatting With Some Pros

The Des Moines Arts Festival is one of the finest I have seen.  Admittedly I haven’t been to a great number of art festivals, but I have been to a few.  The quality of the work which is displayed, is truly worth spending a couple of days battling the Iowa summer heat.  My mother, we will call her Mom, and I went on Saturday evening, after the volunteering and then again on Sunday.  The heat was less oppressive on day two and I decided to mingle a bit.

It is interesting how my perspective about wood furniture has changed since last year.  What was once a feeling of amazement is now replaced with admiration.  What seemed impossible, now seems plausible though far off.  Having an understanding of the basics and knowing how hard every aspect of woodworking can be, has made me realize that it is possible, but one must work and work and blog at it.

Since I like to mingle and the professionals were pretty much tied to their booths, I decided I might do some research into the lives of some of these artists.  I did ask politely if they minded being part of my blog, to which they mostly replied that they would love to.  I did find it interesting that one person wasn’t sure what a blog was and none of them seemed to be using social media to market their products.  But that is a story for another day.  Today I wanted to get a glimpse into the lives of crafts people who turn wood into a livelihood.   Though I spoke with a number of wood artists, I decided upon three of them, well actually four, as one was a wife and husband combo.  We also purchased some art, which I will talk about at the end.

The Pros

Natural Elements Woodworking Co.

Steve Lamberti is a young man, relative to me that is, who has been making his living at woodworking since 2002.  He is from Pleasant Hill, Iowa.  When I saw his rocking chairs from a ways away, I immediately was reminded of one of the videos I had watched.  The problem is that I couldn’t remember if it was Krenov or Maloof, who’s work looked like it might have  inspired his chairs.  So I guessed, but of course, was wrong.  Steve is a big fan of Sam Maloof and captures his style brilliantly.  He also has his own voice as demonstrated by some of his smaller pieces.  Sadly I wasn’t smart enough to take pictures of his rocking chairs, as they were spectacular.  I dropped the ball on that one, sorry.  I guess you will just need to click on the link to the right.  In fact, all of the artists in today’s post are listed.  :-)

I spoke with him and his father, who is also a woodworker and seemed quite proud of his son’s work.  Steve often works from rough cut wood, often taking trees to the saw mill.  They showed me a chair which had come from a downed tree, which was so badly beaten by mother nature, that of 1000 board feet, he was only able to make one chair from it.  Though he did use smaller pieces for some other projects.   Steve likes to work with spalted maple, bubinga, and cherry, among others.  He built a beautiful table from quarter sawn white oak, which was lovely.

He attends 3 shows a year and I asked if the smaller pieces are important for offering different price points for people?  He agreed that it was a good idea.  While I was there a woman bought a very cool bowl from him, which was nice to see.  Steve is a very impressive  young man, and his father was quite nice too.  They were a good first interview.

Andrew Kopp Design

Mom saw this booth and she recognized the name.  I was impressed.  Apparently Andrew had been in the Des Moines register and Mom knew that he was, like myself, an ISU alum.  Andrew was very nice.  His work is much more contemporary and I find it very appealing.  He told us that he is working on his Master’s degree in woodworking, out east in Rhode Island.   He has one more year remaining and if I were to guess, a long promising career in front of him.

He told me a little bit about how he became a furniture designer.  When he headed off to Ames, to become an Iowa State Cyclone, he thought he would either be a graphic designer or a photographer.  When he discovered woodworking it became his calling.  I hope he comes back to next year’s Des Moines Arts Festival, as I would love to see his new work.


Viclan Designs

This was not the first time I admired their work.  They were at last year’s show and Mom bought a a really cool Ikebana.  In fact, I think I can safely say that she loves it.  So when we saw them again, I knew that I wanted to find out about their history.  Vicki told me that they had begun in 1976, the same year the Cincinnati Reds won their second World Series in a row.  She didn’t mention the Reds, but I thought it was important to include.  They read several books, including Tage Frid’s classic works.  They just worked on their craft and found that they were able to make a living doing something they enjoyed.

They are another vendor who makes sure to have a good mix of smaller items to go with their larger furniture pieces.  Vicki mentioned that the down economy has depressed sales a bit, and the smaller items really help.  While we were talking a couple bought a Ikebana similar to the one Mom bought last year.  It was their anniversary and the wife was clever enough to help her husband buy her the perfect gift.  This may be why they looked so happy after 12 years.

They work really hard at their business and attend 15 shows per year, including the big one in Denver.  That is amazing to me.  I can’t imagine having the skill or inventory to be able attend 15 shows, but it is their livelihood , and they seem to enjoy the life they have chosen.  I certainly enjoyed seeing their work.

Art Purchase

After chatting with the pros we stopped into the Wayne Trinklein booth.  Though he doesn’t work in wood, he creates art which any woodworker would love.  He makes trees!  They are absolutely stunning.  After 25 years as a Doctor, Wayne took is hobby of turning twisted copper into trees, into a career.  The choices made picking one difficult.  In fact, Mom and I made three trips back to his booth, before she decided on the Bradford Pear.  His work is truly unique and the little tree looks great on the credenza at my parents.  Though he isn’t a woodworker, I have included his link on the blog roll too, because I think that everyone should check out his work.

Thanks for checking out today’s blog.  I hope you will give these fine artist’s sites a look too.  They are exceptional.