Into the Wood: The Craft of Joshua Vogel
A look at the art and the workshop of Joshua Vogel, a co-founder of BDDW. Shown here at his studio in the Hudson Valley, New York, Vogel produces wooden beautiful furniture, accessories, and sculptures, under the company name of Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading, Co.
Of all the artist’s media, wood is the most revealing of its origins: the splits, the knots, the rings, the grain—all these traits can carry through to the finished piece. For the master wood-turner Joshua Vogel, a co-founder of the acclaimed furniture workshop BDDW who started his own studio in New York’s Hudson Valley in 2008, that is both the challenge and the reward of the painstaking craft of shaping wood using a lathe. “I have many forms in my mind I want to create,” he says, “but once you start out on the lathe, you often have to let go of your intentions and let the wood tell you what it wants to be.
Left: A sculpture made from white oak outside Vogel’s studio near Kingston, New York.
You can see that delicate interplay between artistic intervention and the living natural form in many of Vogel’s bowls, vessels, and sculptures. Rising from the earth just outside his studio, in a converted factory in the town of Kingston, is a striking example: a teetering stack of hand-chiseled wood orbs balancing atop the stump of the handsome white oak from which they were hewn. Or consider a massive gourd vase of maple; it is a marvel of modern contours—the result of many months’ work on the lathe—that are interrupted unexpectedly by a natural split in the grain, which Vogel sutured using butterfly joints.
Left: The entryway of the home that Joshua Vogel shares with his wife, Kelly Zaneto.
Vogel calls it the “in-between moment”: this intersection between the natural world and the handcrafted piece of art or furniture in one’s home. For him, Japanese gardens encapsulate that notion perfectly, that sense of harmoniously bringing the outdoors in. Indeed, Vogel’s pieces have a Zenlike quality, and yet they also are infused with a distinctive sense of place. He works entirely with local woods—black walnut, sycamore, maple—and cites the teachings of the Hudson Valley naturalist John Burroughs as his guiding inspiration. Though all of Vogel’s pieces possess a quiet beauty, they tend to be large-scale—all the better, perhaps, to evoke the grandeur of the trees they came from.
Left: Vogel in his studio.
One of Vogel’s handcrafted sugar maple cutting boards, which can be purchased (prices range from $100 to $300) directly from his studio, Blackcreek M&T Co.
Unfinished vases in black walnut in the studio; Vogel will finish the piece by repeatedly rubbing tung oil into the wood’s surface until he achieves the desired color and texture.
The pantry of Vogel and Zaneto’s home, with cabinets of salvaged wood.
A butterfly joint holds together a natural split in a 20- by 15-inch vase hewn from the crotch section of a sugar maple. Vogel’s work is available at karkula.com.
Vogel's company, Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading, Co., has a great blog where you can keep up with what their latest projects.
Left: A 16-inch-tall puzzle Vogel crafted from maple; it can be taken apart and reassembled in different configurations.
Over at The Scout magazine, they put together a lovely video about Vogel and his work.
Left: Vogel uses a hand tool to refine the contours of a large piece of spalted maple burl as it spins on his lathe; on average, a turning can take him six months to complete.
Chisels, mallets, rasps, saws, and other hand tools are neatly organized in Vogel’s studio, which occupies a 1917 factory building.
Left: Intricate hand-wrought ridges define the surface of a sculpture made of sycamore and finished with black graphite.
Middle right: Vogel uses a blackboard in the studio to sketch out basic shapes and forms; the hand-turned wood vessels in the foreground give a sense of the large scale of much of Vogel’s work.
Left: Maple cutting boards.
Left: A detail of the handles of engraving tools.