Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harry Wicks, uncovering beauty in wood

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
A lot has been written about Harry Wicks, wood turner from Cutchogue, and about his work. Harry himself, at times a magazine editor, produced six books, some for large companies, some published under his name. Harry's website is a good source of information and includes many photos of his work.

Native Long Islander from a farming family that settled in Western Nassau and Queens in early 19th century, Harry cannot recall any artists among his ancestors. He obtained a degree in graphic illustration from the Pratt Institute, one of the best art schools in the country. In his professional life in carpentry, furniture making, and publishing, he created many prototypes and designs, and participated in countless projects. Harry eventually discovered wood turning, taught himself the turning and varnishing techniques, stocked his workshop, and decided to devote all his creative powers to it.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
On our two visits to Harry's workshop we were welcome by classical music blasting full steam. Harry has the music on to muffle the sound of his tools and the hum of air purifiers. The sequence of compositions, either classical or jazz, is carefully planned by Harry to match his mood, his energy level and the energy of the piece with which he works. Harry will frequently stop just to listen to a particular passage; Puccini may bring his work day to an end, as after hearing his music nothing more can be added in any medium.

We have talked about the analogy of silence in music to an empty space in a vessel. Both are significant and, when used properly, enormously effective. You will see this principle applied in many works of Harry.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Harry turns both dry and green wood. He will start by taking a piece of wood, will draw an initial sketch, study the wood, work it and then adjust the original design as he uncovers layers in the wood - sometimes problems, more often nice surprises.

He may turn a perfectly finished piece, geometrically complete, so to speak, and classical in form, where exact shape of wood is well under control. He may also allow the wood's qualities to take over the piece, let bark with its rugged contour become a design element, a bit like improvisation or rubato in music. There is beauty and harmony in both approaches.

He likes working with fruit wood, his sources are more often local than otherwise. Part of his work comes from clients who commission Harry to create pieces from a recently fallen or felled tree of historical or emotional significance to the clients. It happens that some trees are too diseased to be used, but there are many happy endings. Circle of Mercy series was one of such successful and meaningful projects, created for Our Lady of Mercy Academy, a school attended by one of Harry's granddaughters.

Listen to Harry talk about his work and present a few of his pieces.

It is sometimes said that shoemakers' wives go barefoot. We are pleased to say Harry's lovely and supportive wife does not fall into the above category. Harry, with the help of his sons, built the house where the couple now lives. Most furniture and many ornamental and utilitarian objects were made by Harry. How much more 'made on Long Island' one can get?

Harry can be reached at 631.734.5738.

Latest update - June 25th 2011

Harry Wicks revisited

Harry Wicks, woodturner-artist from Cutchogue, has been rather busy in the months that passed since we have interviewed him last. Among other projects, he developed new styles of candlesticks and lamps, perfectly utilitarian but very artistic. He also worked with wood from a black locust and a copper beech which were very dear to us. The slideshow below includes examples of his latest pieces (photos courtesy of Harry Wicks).

Harry's son shot a nice video of Harry in his studio, with further examples of the recent work plus a presentation of various stages of the creative process:

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for it to open!!! GOOD LUCK TO YOU GUYS! going to be a fantastic shop!!