Scrap Wood Gets Makeover at Fallen Wood Turnings, Phoenix
Robert Lievens likes his business small and does not participate in e-commerce because he is concerned with the integrity of his production and sustainability of his resources. Clients who meet him at an art festival or farmer’s market can buy his functional, one-of-a-kind wooden utensils or hire him to carve something from their special piece of wood. To him, nature’s resources are not infinite and should not be massed produced. “The story of each piece of wood,” Lievens says, “and what it becomes is what makes it valuable to the purchaser.”
At Fallen Wood Turnings, craggily branches of desert hardwood or other locally planted trees whose branches are otherwise bound for landfill are hewed into beautiful spoons, rings, pieces of jewelry or bowls clients will love for decades. Lievens turns alabaster stone on the lathe as well, impressively gorgeous pieces that do not last long on the sales table.
Galleries, internet and gift stores have their place, but Lievens much prefers the one-on-one connection with his clients as he feels the message would be missed if he mass-produced his work. He tells ArtBeat that he was a photographer before becoming frustrated by what the digital process lacks when he found his way back to wood. Like a sculptor seeing a final statue in a chunk of granite, Lievens has a certain aptitude with wood grain, texture and color in a tree branch the same way. The tag line to his business motto is ‘Creating wood art from the fallen wood of the urban forest. Leave nothing but sawdust’. There is every bit of complexity to this medium no matter what the final product.
Lievens holds a Master’s Degree in Education and is personable as well as humble. Unless he sources the wood himself, he admits that sometime he does not know the type of wood a client is giving him to carve yet he finds adventure in seeking the perfect form, whatever the species may be. Lately, he notes, folks like the rings and spoons a great deal so he is looking for ways to increase his output in that regard, but he is also known to create personal objects of art such as an urn for cremation ashes, a beautiful way to preserve a loved one’s memory. Plans are in effect for taking the production on the road, as well. Other places and different faces, so to speak.
People Lievens works with often follow up with him telling him how much they love their piece(s) and that is all the reward he requires. Even with today’s technology, “wood working is a craft, an art that is never truly mastered,” he quotes American furniture icon Gustav Stickley (1858-1942). “Als ik Kan. To the best of my ability.” He enjoys collaborating with clients and feels that the resulting items are always some of the best. Lievens appreciates the feedback and celebrates the positive changes his artistry brings to people’s lives. To him, determination, listening to others and asking the right questions helps build success.
“Never get discouraged. Believe that your best piece is yet to be made. Listen to people,” Lievens counsels. He also advises other artists to find the balance between what you like and what others like as it keeps the clutter down.
Get in touch with Robert Lievens, preferably in person, at the Downtown Open Air Market, 721 N. Central Avenue, every Saturday 8am-Noon or the Uptown Farmer’s Market, Central and Bethany Home Road, 5757 N. Central Avenue, Wednesdays 9am-1pm.
Two annual festivals are also on his 2019 calendar, the Chilies and Chocolate Festival, Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoestivus Holiday Market for two days mid-December, also at 721 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix.
Lievens tells ArtBeat that more website development is in the works and keep an eye out for which two local businesses will soon be carrying his work. Contact fallenwoodturnings.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Feature Image: Alabaster Bowl with Found Wood Trim – Artist Robert Lievens – All Images Courtesy of Lievens