Artistic Awakening Is a Cut Above the Rest


Paul Foeckler’s artistic awakening occurred at the woodpile. Wielding a splitting maul and a small ax, he was working his way through lumber from a felled 50-year-old cypress tree on the Sea Ranch property he shares with his wife when he suddenly noticed the minute intricacies of the wood grain within each log he split.

At his fireplace, the observation became an obsession. “There was this one piece of wood next to the fire and I thought, ‘I can’t burn this. It’s too amazing,’” says Foeckler. In 2012, he founded Split Grain, a design studio that celebrates the humble—and happenstance—chunks of wood that fly off his ax.

Photography by Garry McLeod

To create his sculptures, Foeckler slices into each log at a 90-degree angle at multiple intervals along its length, juxtaposing the smooth-faced slabs against the raw wood grain of the outside surface. He then mounts them on steel armatures—a treatment similar to that of specimens at a natural history museum. “In the repetition, the details come out even more,” he says. In the case of this rippling wall sculpture, the detail one sees last is actually the most heroic: the shape of California, a result of three lucky swings of Foeckler’s ax.

“Coming from Wisconsin, I’m amazed that California allows me to be outside all day, every day, chopping wood. I’m under a tree, beside the cypress hedgerow, with ocean breezes coming through,” says Foeckler. “I have to say, we make a lot more fires now.”

This was originally published in California Home + Design’s Fall 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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