How One Man Turns Fallen Trees Into Works of Art

For Bay Area woodworker Ido Yoshimoto every fallen tree is a work of art in waiting

Words by ANH-MINH LE
Photography by AUBRIE PICK

 

On a remote, densely wooded spot along a ridge in Inverness, Ido Yoshimoto’s life has come full circle.

The self-taught woodworker recalls a childhood spent running around the bay tree-studded land, the site of the late artist J.B. Blunk’s studio. “Since I was a kid, I was in and out of the studio, playing in the sawdust,” Yoshimoto says.

His father, Rick, assisted the pioneering sculptor from 1978 until Blunk’s passing in 2002. Today, it’s where the 39-year-old Yoshimoto carries on a legacy deeply entwined with nature, transforming chunks of timber into one-of-a-kind furniture and artworks that embody an organic minimalism in the tradition of Donald Judd and Constantin Brancusi, for such design firms as Commune, Jamie Bush + Co. and Jay Jeffers. At the moment, he’s kitting out a private dining room for Oakland’s Ramen Shop, which previously enlisted him to create a wall installation, benches, tables and beams for its bar.

Yoshimoto got his professional start as an arborist. He always knew that the lumber he handled on a daily basis—buckeye, bay, madrone, manzanita, pine, redwood, eucalyptus, acacia, cypress and elm—could be given new life, and about a decade ago, he decided to put it into practice. “I try to get the wood myself; I like the story in that,” he says. “The work, the process is inseparable from the environment: hiking in the woods and looking for material; four-wheeling around in the truck and salvaging logs.”

“Made in Marin,” his most significant local show to date, runs through Oct. 31 at the College of Marin Fine Arts Gallery in Kentfield. For this joint exhibition with fellow Inverness native Grayson Kent, an artist who specializes in woodblock prints, Yoshimoto is displaying stools with geometric silhouettes, a 7-foot-high totemic sculpture, wall-mounted pieces and works on paper—about 15 creations in total. It follows an influential stint at Andrea Zittel’s A-Z lab near Joshua Tree, and a residency at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Bethany, Conn.

In addition to breaking out the chainsaw for various projects, Yoshimoto is putting his skills to use on his property adjacent to the Blunk site, updating a 600-square-foot cabin situated 100 yards from his studio. He resides in the shed-turned-dwelling, while his teenage daughter occupies an outbuilding, and they share a bathhouse that he constructed. Given that Blunk hand built his own house and studio, it seems especially fitting. “I witnessed my dad and J.B. making everything,” says Yoshimoto. “I absorbed a lot of that—applying creativity to every aspect of life.”

Feature image: The artist crafts a bench for his Marin show.

 

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 Men’s Edition of C Magazine.

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