While the towel above might look like it’s made of cotton, you’d hardly want to wipe your face with it. Why? It’s made of wood. And because it’s a priceless work of art courtesy of sculptor Tom Eckert. Born in 1942, Tom Eckert’s intricate wood sculptures look nothing like the relatively nondescript wood he uses to shape and create them. Eckert is based in Arizona, and primarily works with basswood, linden and limewood, which are stable woods that can easily be painted or carved.
Once the wood has been bent or rounded into shape, Eckert coats the piece with fine layers of lacquer paint, which allows him to add texture and color to the piece. This technique also permits him to add wrinkles to pieces of wooden “cloth” (his primary interest) and to perfect other fine-tuned details that would otherwise be impossible.
To create such whimsical woodwork, Eckert, like many other artists seeking inspiration, tapped into his childhood. Throughout much of Eckert’s youth, studying visual deception occupied a fair amount of his free time. Some years later, Eckert’s childhood obsession has served as the foundation upon which his professional career has flourished. Today, Eckert is most interested in the deception involved in creating “cloth” from wood: including the many visual, structural, and tangible differences between actual cloth and the wood sculpture that portrays it.
According to Eckert, the “magic” happens when a difference of structural qualities is applied to his compositions, such as floating cards or rock. Unsurprisingly, others have found his work equally magical and appealing. His artwork has appeared all over the United States and the Netherlands, and he has received the Visual Arts Fellowship twice from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.