Successful Home Builder Turns Deconstructionist – Asheville Made

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Holland Van Gores has worked with wood his entire life, building everything from his childhood skateboard to custom homes in the Virgin Islands. A milestone birthday and a chainsaw changed everything, though not at the same time.

“I’m so glad this happened,” says Holland Van Gores, who began his artistic pursuits at age 50.
Karyn Strickland portrait

“Construction has always been my bread and butter,” the California native says from his studio in Pisgah Forest near Brevard. In his early 20s, he went to the Virgin Islands to build a restaurant. “His three-month job with the perks of sailing and diving ended up changing his life for 34 years.” During that time, he married, started a construction business and started a family, and his I celebrated my birthday.

Photo credit: Karin Strickland

“My mother was a very talented painter and had her own gallery. I knew I wanted to pursue that when I was 50, but I wasn’t very good at painting. I lived on the island of St. Thomas. I went to an art show and met a gentleman who was making small wooden boxes. Just as we were talking, he sold two. I thought, “Maybe I can do that, too.” I made use of my experience. Once I started sawing wood, I realized how quickly and easily something like a bowl could be made. I loved being in my little shop and loved working with wood. ”

The artist first creates the shape, then thinks about the skin, asking, “What color is this?” [vessel] want to be? “
Photo credit: Karin Strickland

But after 12 years, that love began to fade. “When our daughters were ready to start high school in 2012, we left the Virgin Islands and moved to Brevard,” he says. “This is a beautiful place where art, music and nature come together. I continued to work in construction and woodworking, and the more I went to local symposiums, the more I realized that my work was one of the top 1,000 woodturners. I realized that I just fit in with the 999 people.”

Photo credit: Karin Strickland

So he took the parts he had flipped over to make a vase and used a chainsaw to split them in half instead. “We hollowed it out, let it dry, re-glued it, textured it, and painted it.” He then took it to a monthly gathering of woodworkers in the Carolinas. “There were beautiful bowls and platters, as well as my odd lime green creations. It attracted so much attention that I started finding my voice and running towards it.”

Photo credit: Karin Strickland

The process begins with spinning logs (mostly maple), which he likens to tuning a musical instrument. “It can be a little pointy or a little flat, but once you get it right you can feel the vibrations, like a tuned guitar.”

He has tweaked his artistry, but the steps remain the same. Turn, halve, hollow, dry, reassemble the halves, carve with hand tools, paint, and polish. “After I create the shape, I think, ‘What do I want this shape to look like on the skin?’” “What color do I want this skin to be?”

Photo credit: Karin Strickland

Two years ago he became a member of the prestigious Southern Highland Crafts Guild. “I always thought of my mother and sister as artists, but I never thought I would be able to be like them. Being able to create these pieces that people like and admire is a blessing to me. is still surprising to me.

“I didn’t expect this to happen, but I’m really happy.”

Holland Van Gores, Pisgah Forest. The artist is a member of the Flat Rock Gallery, 2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock; galleryflatrock.com) and Number 7 Arts (12 East Main St., Brevard, number7arts.org). He will be participating in Asheville’s Southern Highlands Craft Fair, which will be held at the US Cellular Center from Thursday, July 18th until Sunday, July 21st.Southern Highland Guild.org). For more information, see hollandwoodart.com.



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