Preserving the Grain

By   |  Photo by Roy Gumpel  |   Back Porch

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In conversation, it’s sometimes hard to tell if Kingston woodworker Josh Vogel is talking about woodworking or philosophy. His contemplative nature is reflected in the pieces he creates through his company, Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Company, founded in 2010 after Vogel moved upstate from New York City. Housed in an antique brick building, Blackcreek creates sculptures; furniture; kitchenware, including cutting boards and spoons; and cutting-board oil made with natural ingredients right in the shop.

For Vogel, woodworking is about cultivating a relationship with the material. Using locally sourced wood, Vogel endeavors to enhance rather than shape wood’s natural grains and textures. “We’re interested in the most knotty part of a tree,” he says, because that’s where you’ll find the most personality. “The anomaly becomes a part of the larger shape,” he says, and a creator’s “personality is literally transferred onto the product.”

Vogel’s passion for “finding the line between the utilitarian and sculpture” is best expressed in the 365 spoons he carved—one a day, for a year—and catalogued as the 365 Kitchen Tools Collection in his new book, The Artful Wooden Spoon: How to Make Exquisite Keepsakes for the Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 2015). “Every day,” he recalls, “I would devote time to making one of these spoons,” asking “where is the line between the spoons and sculpture?” The spoons are all different—some huge, others sized to hold a pinch of salt; some sanded, others stained—but each is hewn like a love sonnet written to the wood from which it was carved.

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