We had the good fortune of connecting with Aquilla Chase and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aquilla, how do you think about risk?

I think art is risky by its nature, and in my career as a wood artist I take risks all the time by using local logs I salvage and mill into lumber from my area in the California Central Coast. A big risk I often take is incorporating, or even highlighting, evidence of a tree’s life and death in my work. This could be knots, cracks, scars, burnt outer layers, or even wormholes. To my eye, the so called flaws in a piece of wood that usually are discarded often show character and tell a story, beyond what a person might see simply from a highly polished surface. In addition, I think the juxtaposition of an old scar against a highly finished surface enhances the luster and color of the wood by showing some of the wood fibers underneath. However, often in the middle of a project, I wonder if maybe I’m leaving too much “character”, and my client won’t appreciate it. So far, it hasn’t happened.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I have spent most of my life working with Central Coast woods, sourced primarily from windfall trees, and simultaneously practicing metal work. I can often see potential beauty in some very rough looking material. I love the curves of trees, and like to let them lead me to the final form of a finished work. My long experience with wood work allows me to refine some of the natural elements found in wood flitches so others can appreciate the elemental beauty that usually is just under the surface. I like to start a project by talking with a client about what they need, then coming up with a creative solution. Sometimes, I go through lots of searching and sorting through wood after hearing a person’s ideas and needs for a table, a bar, a bowl, seating, a shelf, etc., to find just the right flitch for them, but when their eyes light up when they see it, I know I have accomplished what may be the most important step.

For many years I worked as a carpenter and organic farmer, but kept using local woods for personal projects, always dazzled by the rich textures, tones, and shapes naturally in wood, but not really thinking about it as a career. That changed quickly when Vailia From, owner of Desparada Winery, asked me if I could design and build a set of moveable bars for her tasting room in Tin City. The design I came up with is a mixture of wood and metal: curved iron legs on a heavy iron base on small wheels supporting a naturally curved flitch of California Valley Oak with tin metal infill. Pretty soon, I became very busy creating unique looks in local tasting rooms.

I am very proud that I can save a log from a burn pile, then create highly refined, beautiful custom works specifically for a person’s needs.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

I would definitely take them hiking on San Simeon Point, there are these magical trails under arching Monterey Cypress trees right at the edge of the bluff, then short trails leading to small secluded beaches below. Another great hike/swim during the right season is the Arroyo Seco Slot Canyon west of Greenfield. It’s about a three mile hike up the Arroyo Seco to the beginning of the slot canyon, then a spectacular hike and swim for about a mile upstream through some very narrow channels, ending at a waterfall deep in the canyon.
There are tons of places to eat and drink in Paso and Templeton, it’s fun to wander downtown in either place, Tin City is a hub for tasting rooms, but after our hike, I would like to come home, grab a bottle or two of local dry farmed cab from the cave, then pick some vegetables from the garden to start a good dinner with the family.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

My dad, Hal Chase, who taught me that wood grows on trees, and got me started in my craft. My brothers, Erich, Malcolm, and Dan, who kept me to very high standards.

Website: quillchase.com

Instagram: aquillachase

Image Credits
Chaponica Trimmell, Aquilla Chase

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