Nick Lopez: Melding Functional
and Fine Art
By Donna Letterese
Functional Furniture Artist Nick Lopez has been building things his whole life. While his background is in building houses and contracting, he has found himself bridging the fine art and functional art world since 2013.
"I went through a period where things were really slow and I had a bit too much time on my hands," Lopez reflects. "I happened to have some wood lying around from a job I had just finished. I was bored, so, I decided to try making a few pieces of furniture."
While Lopez initially began making his pieces with old-growth California Redwood because it was what he had available, he quickly realized how much he loved the medium. It is a naturally beautiful wood, unique to California and better quality than many other woods. There was also something somber about the fact that there was a finite number of works to be made from it.
Anything crafted from old-growth California Redwood can only be made from fallen trees, as it is forbidden to cut them down anymore.
Lopez quickly realized that the furniture he was making could be more than a mere hobby. He began crafting wine racks and coffee tables, then listing them on Etsy. After he made five or six, he sold a piece. Shortly after, he sold another.
As the sales and demand for his works grew, he began to make more and more. This gave him the confidence to keep going. Ultimately, his desire to make functional fine art furniture, and sculptures, was born out of his wanting to make something new and interesting. He wanted to go beyond crafting only tables.
When Lopez began working with wood, he initially wanted the work to look rustic, and have the reclaimed aspect of it be obvious. Yet, as he grew more confident in his skills, his style evolved.
He now prefers making work with a more modern, sleek look. His pieces have also gradually become smaller. Many of his furniture works are almost mosaic-like, constructed of several thousands of little pieces.
Whereas his first works were pieces of furniture made from six pieces, now when he makes a furniture work, it can be constructed from as many as 10,000 pieces.
Lopez is inspired by a wide variety of sources, particularly given that his background is not only in fine art. He is mostly inspired by work of varied backgrounds that is exceedingly well-crafted, no matter its genre.
Some of his biggest influences are artisans he knows in real life. His friend Kaveri Singh is a designer and muralist, who has inspired Lopez because of her strong talent, as well as her strong style (she does a great deal of Chinoiserie inspired work).
Another influence he names is Mark Zimmerman: a successful abstract painter friend who lives and works out of New York. The chance to travel has also been a great inspiration to Lopez. "I'm not sure if it's had a direct influence on my work, but travelling has really opened up my mind," Lopez notes. "It has been a huge education, making me want to see and do more. When I've seen incredible things on my travels, it has made me think to myself, 'This is great - and I could make something great, too.'"
Whether Lopez is making something with the intent of it being used, or for a gallery show, he approaches the work in the same way. "I approach the building of each piece with a contractor's mentality," he explains. "I wasn't trained in furniture building - meaning, my tools are the same tools that I would use to remodel the kitchen. That has influenced the way I make things."
Lopez has become adept at making works with the tools and materials he has at hand. He knows how to build houses as well as furniture - and at the end of the day, he always wants his work to be functional. "If someone buys an expensive car, it's a collector's item - but what's the point in owning it, if you never drive it or enjoy it for what it's made for?" Lopez points out. "I have no problem mingling the aesthetic and the functional. If you can enjoy looking at a work of art, and you can use it, I think that's best."
Lopez is always happy for his works to be seen, whether they happen to be in a museum or in a person's home.
Currently, Lopez is working on a series of wall sculptures. These pieces are eight feet tall by four feet wide, showing people in a variety of different poses. On his site, there is an example of a wooden sculpture of a woman in profile, with long, flowing hair. The current wall sculptures he is working on will be much in this vein, except larger.
All his works are entirely handmade, with no two pieces being identical. These new sculptural pieces will debut at the WestEdge Design Fair in Santa Monica, from October 19th through 22nd in 2017. "This style is what I'm focusing on," Lopez smiles. "The WestEdge Design Fair was my debut show last year. I'm excited to be returning this year, showing some different work, with each piece having its own personality."
To see more of Nick Lopez's functional fine art furniture and wood sculptures, please go to his website at: www.NickLopezStudio.com.
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