In the Revelstoke Makers series we profile local makers — people who have honed a craft and are skilled in creating things by hand. The series will explore areas of tension in a maker’s process and examine how each person overcomes challenges unique to their art.

Meet Rod Aspeslet, a 30-year logging vet turned wood artist and proud member of the Art First! co-op in Revelstoke. Aspeslet took up his unique wood art in about 1996 and pursued the hobby into his retirement. Aspeslet’s bread and butter of wood art are his bowls and jewelry boxes, but he also specializes in furniture making and sculptures. His techniques vary from sculpting, layering, and carving pieces of wood.

Revelstoke Mountaineer: What do you make?

Rod Aspeslet: I am a wood artist, carver and furniture maker. I use locally sourced, generally salvaged wood for my art. The wood comes from a wide variety of native species as well as town-grown trees. In my relief carvings I like to appliqué different types of wood in for the separate elements of the piece. I don’t use stains. If I want a different color I will use a different species of wood.

In my furniture I like to use burls, live edge slabs, and old growth cedar limbs. Basically I like to give new life to the funky wood, the gnarlyer the better. Old growth cedar limbs are definitely gnarly. I also do a lot of hand carved burl bowls, which is kind of like opening gifts, you never know what you’ve got till you cut it open. Every one is unique.

An example of layering various species and grains of wood by Rod Aspeslet. Photo taken by the Revelstoke Mountaineer.
An example of layering various species and grains of wood by Rod Aspeslet. Photo: Jennifer Rebbetoy/Revelstoke Mountaineer

RM: How did you learn to express yourself with this medium? What inspires you to create?

RA: I grew up helping my dad in his wood shop and then became a logger for 30 years so I’ve always been involved with wood and have made things for myself since the early ’80s. Then in the mid ’90s I met Harry Katcher, a local burl furniture artist that put me onto a wood carver from Sorrento who was selling some clear cedar ovals at a very good price. After seeing his work and his shop set-up I was totally inspired and went home, bought some more tools and went to work. Fortunately I already had a large supply of wood available because the little kid in me had been hauling funky branches and burls home for years.

A few of Aspeslet's tools. Photo taken by the Revelstoke Mountaineer.
A few of Aspeslet’s tools. Photo: Jennifer Rebbetoy/Revelstoke Mountaineer

RM: As a wood artist what do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

RA: As a wood artist the commission I did for Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation that hangs in the Revelstoke Business & Visitor Information Centre is my pride and joy so far. As for the furniture end, I did a dining room table with four matching chairs made of Lombardy poplar slabs, inlaid with river polished pebbles from the Illecillewaet and legs of old growth cedar limbs. This I gave to my son as a wedding gift. The biggest obstacle in doing my work is finding the geometry in the free form but that is also the greatest joy.

An example of one of Aspeslet's wood sculptures. Photo taken by the Revelstoke Mountaineer.
An example of one of Aspeslet’s wood sculptures. Photo: Jennifer Rebbetoy/Revelstoke Mountaineer

RM: When did your craft transition from hobby to profession?

RA: I started making a profession of my craft when I joined the Art First co-op in Revy a few years ago. Although I did do commission pieces from time to time before that. However my craft doesn’t quite constitute a full time profession, in the summer I supplement things by doing carpentry and renovations for my lakefront neighbors out in Beaton.

One of Aspeslet's cedar bowls in Art First. Photo taken b the Revelstoke Mountaineer.
One of Aspeslet’s cedar bowls in Art First. Photo: Jennifer Rebbetoy/Revelstoke Mountaineer

RM: What are some new directions your creations are taking? 

Rod Aspeslet. Photo: Jennifer Rebbetoy/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Rod Aspeslet. Photo: Jennifer Rebbetoy/Revelstoke Mountaineer

RA: I have a few ideas of things I want to do in the future, I want to carve some big armchairs out of the massive stumps on the flats at low water and I have plans in the back of my head for a life-size, three-faced Kootenay fertility goddess.

Aspeslet’s work can be purchased at Art First! at 113 First Street West. His work can be viewed at the Revelstoke Business & Visitor Information Centre at 301 Victoria Road West, Sangha Bean at 111 Connaught Avenue, his benches along the Illecillewaet Greenbelt and on Facebook.

Contact the Aspeslet directly for commission pieces at 250-837-2278 or rod.aspeslet@gmail.com.

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Jennifer Rebbetoy
Jennifer Rebbetoy is an enthusiastic young writer recently transplanted from Nelson, B.C. where she worked in production at Shambhala Music Festival and in local media. Her work in film, print magazine and live music informs her work and professional perspective in cultural production.