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ARTIST OF THE MONTH - March 2002

Carl Zytowski: Fine Woodworking
by Sydney Francis

No artist’s life’s work can be accurately distilled to 750 words. I generally favor one aspect of the artist’s work for “Artist of the Month”, as opposed to trying to scantily cover an entire artistic oeuvre. In Carl Zytowski’s case, I am focusing on his current fine furniture and what goes into the craftsmanship, detail and finish of such works of art.

Zytowski has known since high school that he was interested in pursuing the arts by profession. He took a large variety of art classes and decided to become a photographer. After attending the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA, Zytowski became disenchanted with the world of photography. His next artistic pursuit was drafting, which appealed to his desire to work in an artistic medium that combined art and science, until it became clear that drafting did not include the “hands on” creation of his ideas and designs. He took up welding for a time, but knew steel was not his ideal medium. And then he moved on to making wines in California and Australia.



Around 1994, Zytowski discovered a passion and interest in fine woodworking, but he was unclear about how to achieve the training and education it would take to become a master woodworker. He moved to Seattle and took up an apprenticeship with a fine furniture maker. After that he worked as an antique furniture restorer.

In 1997 Zytowski moved to Moab where he continued to research the art of fine woodworking and where he might go to gather the necessary skills. In 1999, he was accepted to the Fine Woodworking Program at College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, CA. It had taken him three years of applying to the very exclusive and prestigious Fine Woodworking Program, which includes all of 23 students per year. The prestige of the program is contingent upon its rigorous, individualized, and “hands on” education under the careful tutelage of well-known master woodworkers, like James Krenov. James Krenov is internationally recognized for his singular style, innovation and craftsmanship in fine furniture building.



In the Fine Woodworking Program, Zytowski learned all about wood and how it can be specially cut, refined, and finished to display unique textures and patterns to be integrated into the composition of a piece of furniture. He learned about woodworking tools by crafting his own hand made tools. And he learned how to design and execute fine furniture, expressing artistry and craftsmanship in a unique and personal style.

The wood in each individual piece of Zytowski’s work is hand selected and specially cut to create harmony in the overall piece of furniture. The unique character of the wood, its pattern and texture, is integrated into the overall design and composition. This gives his furniture uniformity and balance that is appreciated by but not immediate to the untrained eye. In addition, every piece of furniture is one of a kind. For example, Cabinet Etrange, a combination of teak, figured bigleaf maple and wenge, integrates matching door panels, which evoke the flow of the overall piece. The graceful curvature of the frame follows the pattern of the wood on the door panels. The deepening color towards the base gives the impression of weightlessness.

 

The handcrafted to match drawer pulls conform to and enhance the design of the cabinet, rather than detract from its presence. Down to every minute detail, Zytowski has fashioned Cabinet Etrange with acute attention and craftsmanship. It is difficult to see the exactness of the fine craftsmanship from the picture. The precision of Zytowski’s furniture is best experienced first hand. Fine woodwork is a sensual art and can best be appreciated using several senses. The beauty of the woods, its colors, patterns, textures, and composition appeal to the eyes. Its suppleness and refined polish appeals to the sense of touch. And the intense fragrance of the woods, each with a distinctive aroma, for example the scent of Spanish Cedar in the case of the “Barnsley Dresser”, appeals to our most primitive and profound sense, the sense of smell.

In fine furniture building Zytowski has found an ideal medium. It calls to his desire to create art that combines art and science in a symbiotic relationship. It is a “hands on” craft (and the wood, itself, feels good to the touch). And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it beckons to his desire to create and master “perfection”. There are so many details to his work, such as the dovetail joints, the hand cut pieces of wood, the fine curvature of the surfaces, the hours of time that go into planing each piece for exquisitely refined suppleness, and the creation of a work around the character of individual pieces of wood. To create such subtly harmonious pieces of furniture requires such rigorous attention to detail, method and meticulous craftsmanship that Zytowski’s inner perfectionist cannot help but be satisfied and stimulated.



As a graduate of the Fine Woodworking Program, Zytowski moved back to Moab. He has recently established his own business Zytowski Fine Woodworking, 259-1792, which offers “the finest functional art crafted by hand.”

His newest work is on display at Perpendicular to the Wind Gallery, 37 E. Center St, 259-0088. I encourage you to see, feel and smell for yourself the incredibly refined craftsmanship, quality, and time which goes into each unique piece of furniture.

 
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