● By Style
Photo by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
Roger Filippelli, veteran teacher and woodworking artisan, creates heirloom-quality kitchen utensils from unique and exotic woods. His work can be found at the Crocker Art Museum Store, various local craft fairs throughout the year, and at his private studio and gallery by appointment. We recently caught up with Filippelli and learned more about his old world art in this modern day.
AB: Woodworking is a very specialized skill. How did you come to develop your art in this medium?
RF: I enjoyed 36 wonderful years teaching art and crafts in junior college and at various local high schools. I’ve always perceived the world through an artistic lens: Everything and everybody has shape, sound, movement, function and color. Throughout my teaching career, I showed in numerous galleries, owned and operated two craft stores and participated in juried art shows in California and Nevada. My wife, Chrissie, says I have creative energy in my hands that has to manifest daily. I have worked in a variety of mediums as an artist and eventually settled on carving “keepsake kitchen” utensils.
AB: Why did you decide to focus on kitchen utensils? Do you ever create larger pieces or furniture?
RF: In order to make art an important part of everyday life, I’ve created a variety of utensils: spoons, spatulas, scoops, several kinds of salad servers, sauté tools, wok tools, cutting boards, matched cooking sets, chopsticks and pie servers, to name a few. I just finished a custom order for a curly koa presentation board with matching chopsticks out of wood I brought home from Kona. I’ve designed and made pieces of furniture and turned bowls, but find my greatest satisfaction not in machine-intensive objects, but rather in the joy of handwork.
AB: What types of wood do you favor and what are your sources?
RF: My wood comes from many sources—perhaps a local felled tree or a recycled maple floor from an old school stage. Cherry and maple come from Tennessee, koa from Hawaii and olive wood from Jerusalem. I often hear from strangers who have unusual wood they’d like me to see.
AB: What types of tools do you use?
RF: I work with lots of tools but my most important ones are probably chisels and gouges. Ultimately, the bowl of the spoon determines the “look” of the piece. Knots or shifts in the grain or color changes, to name a few, dictate the length, width and depth of the bowl. Perhaps I discover a fault in the substrate or just some crazy grain to work with. The rest of the spoon follows. One might say an event in the life of a tree can create unique “blemishes,” which often become my highlights in a design.
AB: How have you kept the tradition of woodworking alive in the modern world?
RF: Not long ago, I attended a workshop for woodworkers in Tennessee. I learned from furniture makers, college students and doormakers; it was invigorating. I was recently featured in a coffee table book called A Gathering of Spoons by Norman Stevens, after being selected by the editor as part of the modern spoonmaker’s informal “guild.”
For more information, or to make an appointment at Filippelli’s studio, email email@example.com.