Kerry Vesper – Arizona artist in wood

vesper1

Vesper uses an angle grinder to refine the roughed out shape of this wall-hung sculpture. The finished work will resemble the piece below.

Kerry Vesper has spent most of his working life in a professional wood shop, but he isn’t comfortable calling himself a woodworker. He seldom builds furniture, and isn’t especially fond of traditional woodworking tasks like cutting and fitting joinery.

In Kerry’s case, it’s more accurate to say that he is an artist – a sculptor – whose medium just happens to be wood. His work bears a resemblance to the stack laminating techniques explored by Wendell Castle and others in the late 60s and early 70s. He stacks and glues material into a shape that approximates the final form, which he reveals and refines with a variety of grinders and power sanders.

vesper3What fascinates me about his approach is that he starts with the rigid, rectangular form of plywood and transforms it work that is all about curves and asymmetry – waves of wood.

I had the good fortune to visit with Kerry earlier this week while I was on assignment in Phoenix. We met at his shop, behind an overhead door in a light-industrial park near downtown Scottsdale. The space is dusty and tight, packed with prototypes, power tools, and works in progress.

Kerry’s calendar is full of commission work – a nice problem to have. On a bench near the front of the building sat one of his next deliveries – a glued-up sculpture of birch ply and bubinga in the midst of rough carving.

Kerry is part of a small group of local pro woodworkers who get together regularly to share ideas and war stories. He urged me to come back soon for one of their show-and -tell gatherings, a trip I am already looking forward to.

To see more of Kerry’s work, check out his website or see what he has for sale at artful home. In the meantime, let me know what you think of this post and join the conversation. What cool work are you seeing? What local groups are helping you in your woodworking?

 

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4 thoughts on “Kerry Vesper – Arizona artist in wood

  1. Liz Aberg ICM 522

    That piece is beautiful. And it all began from plywood? Is this the same grade of plywood you would find during home building, for example. Please take photos the next time you meet with Carey and the rest of the woodworking community. Great stuff.

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    1. stephenharlan Post author

      Hi Liz, and thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked Kerry’s work. You raise a great point about the plywood. Kerry uses a type known generally as Baltic Birch or Russian Birch, which is pretty different from construction-grade plywood. Each sheet contains more layers and is more solidly constructed – with fewer voids and other defects. It stays flat and has attractive edges (the parallel lines which Kerry makes use of in his designs). It’s a popular material for kids’ furniture and is used often by woodworkers for shop furniture and fixtures.

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  2. Nicole Ramai

    Wow this really steps away from the usual idea of sculpting and wood working. I love how Kerry has created a new genre if you will. He’s paving the way to allow art to be expressed no matter the outlet

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    1. stephenharlan Post author

      Thanks Nicole. You’re right. His shop looks like a lot of others I’ve been in – the machines, the materials, the happy jumble of templates and unfinished work. He fits into the community of woodworkers, but he has found his own path.

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