Wood artist George Peterson knows how to harvest the transformative power of fire. He uses it to mold and shape hand-turned maple and cherry, walnut and oak and skateboards into original and hauntingly beautiful works of art.
I was immediately taken with his work when I discovered it at the NY NOW show in New York City. It’s no wonder that he is inspired by the great Danish wood artist Finn Juhl, as both are similar in their approach to balance and scale resulting in strong and sleek modern forms.
His repurposed skateboards are also remarkable. They resonate with the energy of ancient worn totems.
Made in sets from salvaged, and used skateboards he buys for $5, George, a self-taught artist, loves giving life to discarded materials. Working out of the Circle Factory, a 3000 sq. ft. home studio he and his wife Margaret built in 1992 in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, George has the room to play with and explore many different textures by practicing a kind of creative destruction where he discovers and uncovers the unexpected beauty of an object by dismantling and rebuilding it in a new and original form.
His tools are hardcore: axes, chain saws, hammers, files; anything that can scar, breakdown and transform the material with large powerful strokes. Yet it is use of fire to score and char and bend and blister the wood that causes the most profound effect by creating and exposing a damaged and raw grain.
After a piece is shaped and turned it is placed in an outdoor kiln for drying and settling and stabilizing where it will find its final form before any finishes are applied. This process can take hours, days, weeks or longer as some pieces come fast and others slow. They are all allowed to evolve in their own time.
Finishes such as milk paint, wax, oxides and other washes are applied and then sometimes sanded back down to the bare wood highlighting the texture within. Waxed linen is used to sew broken bits back together.
George makes bowls and tables production style using a lathe. They are available all over the world and in many stores such as Room & Board. All of the raw material for these pieces are ethically sourced from local arborists. He says his secret is to look for forks in the wood as that’s where the most interesting patterns lie.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. . .” Thoreau.
**Special thanks to Tony Dec and Holly Gregor for their help with this post.**