Meet Craig Brietbach
Craig is one of our most recent new members. But, as you will see, he has been carving for a few years and has several public art pieces displayed in the North West. We hope you enjoy this view of his work. You can view more of his work at: craigbreitbach.com.
What is your life history as it relates to being an artist?
Born and raised in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, I grew up with a huge appreciation for the outdoors; my dad took us fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping often. He also taught me to whittle at an early age and both my parents dallied with art, so I took what art classes I could in high school.
I was always good with my hands and mechanical things as well, so my first career was actually in aviation mechanics, first for a small commuter airline out of Port Angeles and then shortly thereafter for Alaska Airlines in Seattle. But I never lost my passion for creating art. When I stumbled across a class at Pratt Fine Art in stone sculpting in 2000, I realized I had a knack for it and was hooked immediately. Our house began acquiring rocks of all shapes and sizes.
How do you get your ideas?
My art is mostly influenced by nature. I began by focusing on salmon in great, realistic detail, but now I carve many other wildlife forms.
Some of my best pieces evolved from the shape or color of the stone from which they started. Or more often I have an idea and wait until I find the ideal stone for it.
How do you develop them (by direct carving, drawing, modeling, etc.)?
I mostly sketch a carving before I start. Sometimes I make clay models to make sure the design will fit within the chosen stone. I research a lot of pictures of wildlife to try and include realistic details.
Describe a recent piece or two.
Recently I’ve been intrigued by birds. I came across some basalt from the Columbia Gorge which has a wonderful bronze color when polished. I finished a hawk in that stone which has become one of my favorite sculptures, and am working on a series of bird sculptures in the same stone.
What do you like about them?
The contrast of the bronze patina of the polished stone to its rough natural surface is wonderful. The accidental cut marks from a diamond blade led to a nest pattern on the base that I really like. I also made a stand for the base out of metal that is shaped like a talon and makes it more unique.
Do you work part or full time as an artist?
When the airlines were laying people off en masse, I jumped at the chance to take an early retirement and pursue my art full-time. It’s hard to believe I’ve been a full-time artist (and dad) for seven years! I’m thankful that I’ve had that opportunity.
What stones do you prefer?
I love Washington’s columnar basalt. It comes in all sizes and shapes, just ready for a sculpture to be born out of it, and the contrast between natural and polished basalt is striking. I’ve also worked in brucite, marble, alabaster, granite, and soapstone, but all my larger sculptures are in basalt.
What is your working process – do you do one piece at a time or do you have several in process at once?
I start new pieces all the time. I like to start one while the idea is fresh in my mind, even if I won’t get around to finishing it until later. Right now I have at least five pieces in the works.
What tools do you use?
Being a mechanic and an artist, I’ve always had an addiction for tools (the right tool for the right job). I use all kinds of electric and pneumatic grinders, a core drill, diamond saws, water polishers, as well as more traditional hand tools for the finer details. I look forward to someday buying a hydraulic driven diamond chainsaw and ring saw.
Where can people see your work?
Several Northwest cities have purchased my sculptures for public display, including Oregon City, Puyallup, Issaquah, and Fall City. One of my favorite pieces, Whale of a Bench, is currently on loan to the Westcott Bay Reserve sculpture park on San Juan Island. I often display my smaller pieces at Up Front gallery in Issaquah. You can also visit my studio or website to see my latest work.
Where do you work?
When we built our house in Fall City six years ago, we designed a studio for me, so I have a very short commute! I have different work areas for wood, metal, and stone, including a curtained area for the dirtiest work, although I still have dust everywhere. But I also do a lot of my stone carving outside where I have a warm water faucet (and a gantry crane for the heavy stuff).
What are you looking forward to (goals, commissions, new ideas, flights of fancy)?
I have some big ideas for groupings of large-scale sculptures for which I hope to find the right commission or callout. These groupings can tell more of a story than a single sculpture can.
What have been your satisfactions in your life as an artist?
When I finish a piece that looks as good as or better than the idea I had in my head, I am content. What makes me even happier is having others enjoy it. I am really proud to have a few large pieces in my own town; I drive by them daily and am grateful that they are in a fine location on the Snoqualmie River.
Meet Anthony Kaufmann
Tony’s stone sculpture is very colorful – so is Tony. It is because of his desire to show the fuller spectrum of his work that Tony volunteered to pay the extra cost of printing his Artist Spotlight in color. Thank you, Tony, for being the first to bring color to Sculpture NorthWest.
Who are you?
I was born in the Basalt and sage lands of rural Central Washington. On the family farm I learned the values of creative resourcefulness, self-reliance and the will to triumph or fail on my terms; I spent little to no time indoors, choosing to make playthings in the shop or explore on my dirt bike. Freedom was a big part of my youth. My family have been farmers for three generations. Plants, stone, soil and water will always be my heart’s materials.
Why did you become an artist?
My path towards the arts has been organic in its unfolding. It was created by closed doors as much as open ones; punctuated by blind faith, will, natural sensitivities towards material and a series of fortunate apprenticeships. I never really started out to be an artist, it’s just an area that, because of my love of detail, I feel most useful in.
What has influenced your art form?
The top four things, among many, would be:
1. The fact that entanglement theory is not a theory, Quantum entanglement is the Idea that all particles are interconnected. Based on an experiment where two photons of light were split apart and shipped 11miles from each other. One photon was altered with an electromagnetic charge and the other reacted in real time as if connected.
2. Reverence regarding the mechanisms of nature, the vastness of time.
3. Order out of Chaos
4. The freedom of smallness
How has NWSSA influenced your work as an Artist?
With the community brought together by the NWSSA, I get a sense that my brand of loony is shared by others -thus a sense of confidence.
What can you tell us about your art?
I employ a philosophy of carving that allows equal say between my intent and the will of the stone. This style utilizes direct carving in an aggressive fluid process. The unfolding design process leaves plenty of room for spontaneous reaction to the stone’s mother shape and will. This embracing of passions of the now, when carving, creates a kind of crucible of inspiration in the forward steps, and a reverence in the backward steps.
How do you develop your ideas?
Choosing to rework sculptural standards. Seeing (the works/the pieces/ the sculptures) as half-loaded vessels. I infuse them with the essence of the ideas garnered during the course of production.
I do not work from drawings or models of any sort, preferring ultimate freedom, employing the chaos of the journey, and the will of all factors involved.
What is the overall theme or intent of your work?
Reverence. I build speed bumps. I use beauty, mass and scale to attract. The pieces being meticulously worked inside as well as out bring people in through a soothing tactile journey. This is to bring the heart and mind out of 24 /7/365 in hopes to recalibrate to cosmic time. This is no different than Chaco Canyon or Stonehenge.
What materials do you primarily work with?
Columnar basalt, granite, onyx, marble. I like to unite stones from diverse geological situations as I would like to see humans unite from different cultural backgrounds. I love the universality of it.
What is your working process?
I am truly monogamous; I only work on one sculpture at a time. When blocks or bad breaks occur I prefer to stay and hammer it out. Working towards my favorite time; when all panels/pieces fit together, the shapes have been negotiated to my liking and the will of the stone. I work towards the diamond love, the great caress that makes the stone reach out and kiss the sun.
Where do you exhibit your work?
I have hosted an open studio every year for the past 12 years. Lake Oswego Arts festival - Received the Jurors award. Marenakos Stonearium group show.
I have two public pieces in Seattle and one in Moses Lake. I have three pieces in private gardens.
Have you been influenced by any particular artist?
Yes, by Isamu Noguchi and by Kazutaka Uchida.
What have been your satisfactions in your life as an Artist?
Communication with the inner self, and sharing that conversation with others. I recently had the great joy of a special visitor to 3000bc studios: Kazutaka Uchida one of the few distant guides that spoke to me via the wind requested to see the work in person and it was the best day of my artistic life. I have survived and had tiny triumphs thus far, which gives me great hope.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome?
Let me preface this answer with the statement:
They are the same obstacle that comes back in different forms, and still present a battle. I accept that!
a. cyclic poverty
c. lovers jealous of the time and attention that my dream consumed.
d. professional frustration.
e. The view by some that I am wasting my abilities on a crazy notion.
My obstacles are shared by all to some degree, and some have persevered to add their work to the great collective, and that gives me perspective and hope.
What are you looking forward to in your professional life?
I want to finish the Planetary Series before I pass. I have one in the series done: ‘Moultant Heart Venus 2 Sings Columbria’s Song’ and eight more to go.