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Nick Lopez Turns Reclaimed Wood into Works of Art

Courtesy of Nick Lopez

When artist Nick Lopez was young, his parents left what he calls the “bubble” of Rancho Murieta, California to the “real world” of Oakland. There he found himself living in a construction zone while his father added 15,000 square feet to their home. Those early days dwelling in the midst of ongoing renovation would go on to inform his work in years to come. As he recalled in recent interview, “Even though I was quite young, I was able to see and be involved in the process of a house being built from the ground up. I learned that everything works on paper but rarely so in real life. There will always be problems but there will also always be solutions, you just have to find them. And probably the biggest influence has been on my work ethic. If you want something you have to work for it.” Beyond the foundation of strategic thinking and a willingness to put his nose the grindstone, Nick also seemed to be drawn to the materials around him. Plus, as he acknowledged, he had the tools at hand. “My technique was born from not having any other options,” Lopez conceded. “Because all my prior experiences of working with wood came in the form of remodeling houses, the tools that I own are more suited to that style of work. I didn’t want that to stop me from creating pieces, nor did I have many thousands of dollars to invest in a bunch of new machinery. I really enjoy, and used to do, a lot of stone mosaic work so I decided to apply the same concept of mosaics to wood pieces. It’s actually a very simple process that I had all the necessary tools for, and so it began.” He described his artwork, saying, “I create functional art and sculpture out of reclaimed wood, with the vast majority of my pieces being identifiable objects as opposed to abstract. Each piece I create is made up of hundreds to thousands of little pieces of wood. When looking at them, it's like seeing a three dimensional wooden mosaic or wooden jigsaw puzzle. The completed pieces have a warm yet very modern feel, with smooth flowing lines and rounded surfaces. The wood color tones are medium browns and reds, as well as some very light tans.” His process is thoughtful and meticulous. Despite admitting that he is not the most patient person in his day to day life, Lopez finds the ability to focus and block everything else out when he creates a piece. “I start each piece the same way, first by drawing out the shape that I want to achieve,” Lopez explained. “Once it’s drawn, if for example, it’s a wall piece, I will hang the drawing on the wall for a week or more. Stepping back and looking at it will give me time to adjust it as necessary to make sure that it's the look that I want. Once I’m happy with the look I can begin assembly. I begin assembling it one little piece at a time, cutting each angle of each individual piece and making sure it fits properly. I’ll use a lot of glue, a lot of clamps, and sometimes even a lot of tiny nails. Piece by piece by piece it slowly starts to take on a shape and a life of its own.”

Courtesy of Nick Lopez

While many of his reclaimed wood materials come from his own backyard or someone else’s, the artist cited traveling as one of the biggest influences on his work. “It’s been a part of me for so long that I can’t imagine what my life and art would be like without it. Seeing different cultures, different people, different ways of life, it's made me think that anything is possible.” Currently, Lopez is working on several large wall mount sculptures of people. “Each person is about 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide and each made up of about 3,000 little pieces of wood,” he noted. “They seem to be growing personalities of their own and I’m really enjoying seeing them come to life.” These pieces, in addition to some smaller sculptures and furniture, will go on exhibit at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica at the WestEdge Design Fair from October 19th to the 22nd. "I will be debuting two of the large wall sculptures I mentioned earlier as well as a few smaller sculptures that I am still working on," he noted. To find out more about Nick Lopez’ work and the fall show at Barker Hanger, visit his official website.

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