Exciting Surprises w/ Richards Wood Craft
I [Zach] have know Kevin Richards, the man behind Richards Wood Craft, for almost 15 years. We met in the awkward years of High School, spending the majority of our time falling in love with the dark room and the mysteries and magic of film. These formative years, thanks to a very influential teacher, set our creative wheels in motion. Fast forwarding to now, through a number of various pit stops and side roads, we’re both making work today, altho not in the medium we both first loved. Kevin’s wood work can be found in our latest issue No 11 The Wild.
Composite: You’ve worked within and are comfortable with a number of artistic mediums, especially photography. How did you find your way to woodworking, and what grabbed your attention about it?
Richards Wood Crafts: This thought came up a few days ago for me. I came across an old photograph I took at a concert probably in 2001 somewhere in Denver with you. The venue was dark, the lights were multicolored, and the guitarist I was photographing was moving around the stage. I remember running through the settings on my Minolta and adjusting the shutter speeds and aperture with respect to my film speed. After I developed the film and checked the proofs I wasn’t in the least bit surprised by how the surreal and color splashed guitarist turned out because I was so familiar with my camera at the time. I don’t think I was anywhere near being a great photographer, but I had developed that relationship.
With woodworking right now I barely have a hint of that understanding. When I cut into or join together different woods I’m most always surprised with the results. That’s what has really pulled me into this medium so strongly. The outcomes have been exciting.
C: Your admittedly new to the wood working world. What sort of investment did it require to get started?
RWC: Since beginning this experiment, I’ve acquired a nice collection of power tools. Originally, I wanted to teach myself how to carve a small spoon. After a few failed attempted I realized I didn’t have a natural talent for that. My former boss, who I look up to as a very capable person who can make or fix about anything would give me advice. I’d come to him with a problem of shaping wood for a projects and his response would usually be something like, “Well, you know what you need don’t ya? You ought to get yourself a miter saw” or planer, or miter saw, or dremel tool, etc. And so I did. Each new tool opened up a few more options to what I could make and how I could make it.
C: The bulk of composite’s contributors (and probably readers) work within a fine arts studio context; paint on canvas, dark rooms and laptops, the occasional power tool or table saw. What’s your work style like? What’s a day in your studio?
RWC: When I moved to Salt Lake a few months ago I turned half the space of my landlord’s tool shed into my workshop. It’s incredibly unimpressive, but I sort of love my little space.
My whole M.O. revolves around the desire to make something personal with my hands that people would want for themselves or as a really neat gift. So after I load up my iPod with a few hours worth of podcasts and music, I work on the idea for that week of what people might appreciate. I get on different kicks for a while with projects. My girlfriend stole my pencil to put up her hair a few weeks ago on a drive so I made figured wooden hair sticks from exotic hardwoods for a few days. A few people bought them. I waited too long in a restaurant lobby to be seated, so the next week I made wooden spinning tops so that I could have something in my pocket to occupy my boredom in those scenarios. I’ve spent weeks making individually designed wooden goblets for a wedding, and bowls and spoons always pique my interest to try new things. I might have answered your question somewhere in there.
C: You’ve spent your life living in the West; Colorado, Idaho, Utah, etc. What impact has this had on your identity, especially as a creative?
RWC: I guess I have spent the past few years bouncing around the West. Whenever my father is asked what I’m doing with my life he often answers. “Oh, Kevin? He’s out finding himself somewhere I think” with a smirk. He’s exactly right. I’ll be 30 in a few months and I’m terrified of going to location 40 hours a week where creativity isn’t a factor. I’ve found a lot of support to pursue lofty goals in making a career in woodworking from artists in the West. I think this part of the country just has a very strong can-do attitude from able people who just live that lifestyle. I recently wrapped up a short apprenticeship with an incredible hardwood furniture craftsman in Salt Lake at Ivory Bill Furniture. It really opened my eyes to what great talent comes out of hard work, attention to detail and a love of wood.
C: Word on the streets is you make a killer eggplant Parmesan. Any interest in leaking the recipe?
RWC: If any of the readers pass through the Salt Lake area, I’d love to show you how to turn a block of wood into a bowl and discuss art over my secret eggplant parm recipe.