Woodworkers display their crafts at Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa

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When John Cobb hears chainsaws in his neighborhood, it’s a call to action. What potential lies in your neighbor’s spoils?

Cobb, like other woodworking artists and craftsmen, is always on the lookout for the perfect piece with new materials, something that sparks his creative imagination.

The Kentfield men also have relationships with firewood dealers where they can get whole trees, and they sometimes give walnuts and other good hardwoods the first pass with the chainsaw. And he’s been known to hang out at green waste facilities in Marin County, where he can charge a few pieces for a nominal fee.

The art of woodworking and wood turning begins with the wood, and each craftsman has his own preferences. However, what a piece of wood becomes is in the hands and hearts of its creators. That’s obvious to anyone who visits the “Artistry in Wood” exhibit at the Sonoma County Museum. There, around 52 artisans, including woodturner Cobb, exhibit their best work.

“This exhibit reflects the breadth of woodworking talent in Northern California, and that’s something to behold,” Cobb said. He spent his career in high finance, but since his retirement he has found a whole new sense of satisfaction in carving wood and teaching others the art.

“When you start looking at the joinery, it’s really phenomenal. It’s not trial and error. It’s just master woodworkers. We want to showcase this and show the public that there are great woodworkers out there and what they can do. It’s great to be able to get to know you.”

The show features 80 unique pieces, including fine furniture, mobiles, vessels, bowls, lamps, and sculptures, many of which are both functional and decorative. Many works are also on sale.

This exhibit is a partnership between the 190-member Sonoma County Woodworking Association and the Sonoma County Museum. The show is highly regarded among woodworkers and patrons of the arts and has been an annual event since 1988.

Sonoma County’s artistic tradition

Works accepted for exhibition must pass certain criteria set by a jury. Once entries are accepted, a panel of external expert judges will award awards to the best entries in a variety of categories, including furniture, lathes, and fine art. Many of these winning pieces will be published in prestigious publications such as Fine Woodworking magazine.

Woodworking has long been popular in Sonoma County, largely due to the influence of the late James Krenov.

Krenov is widely regarded as one of the most influential woodworkers of the 20th century. He joined the faculty at Fort Bragg’s College of the Redwoods in 1981. Over time, his masterful art and skills as a master teacher attracted students from all over the world. Many of Krenov’s trained students lived on the North Coast and taught others a woodworking ethos rooted in craftsmanship and attention to proportion, detail, and materials.

Don Jereb, a retired anesthesiologist who has overseen the museum’s exhibits for the past several years, said the hurdles remain high, but efforts have been made in recent years to make the exhibits more inclusive.

We would also like to introduce our efforts to train craftsmen so that more people will be interested in woodworking. Like many organizations, the association’s membership is on the decline. But the group wants to keep the art alive and pass on the wisdom of its members to new generations.

“We have a guild of professional woodworkers. Everyone submits their work and the guild checks to see if it meets woodworking standards and is well made. So it’s very comprehensive. But within reason. When it was mostly high-end furniture made by graduates of the James Krenov School, that was a very high bar. But over the past seven or eight years, I’ve started to buy more beginners and intermediates. “We’ve tried to bring in woodworkers and make it a more inclusive organization,” he said.

“When you look at some of these pieces, you might feel some kind of fear. But what we don’t want to do is scare people and put our hat in the ring and see what happens. It’s about stopping you from looking.”

One of the young exhibitors is Santa Rosa woodworking artist Anthony DiMartini, who has two pieces in the show. One is a large sculpture called “Tree 2.0” that incorporates various types of wood. Jereb said guild members thought it was great.

Jereb himself has two works in the exhibit. mobiles and what he calls “whimsical lamps.” It is made from pommel sapele, a shiny, iridescent African wood that comes in multiple colors. In both works, he used ultra-thin slices of wood that were steam-bent and assembled after drying. When incorporated into a lamp, the curly wood creates a playful reflection on the wall. The mobile rotates and catches the air flow in the room.



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