By Gina Malone | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
Art found Nathan Favors through his chosen vocation. Born in Philadelphia and raised on Maryland’s eastern shore, he spent much of his life running his own landscaping and tree removal business with his six sons. “Being surrounded by Mother Nature through my business and really gaining an extensive knowledge about the different trees I came in contact with made me so much more aware of nature’s beauty,” Nathan says. “I became very interested in finding ways to preserve that inner beauty.”
More than 20 years ago, he visited a woodturners’ exhibit and was intrigued. Through observation of lathe work and through trial and error, he taught himself the craft rather than taking classes. “I like to experiment and create with a lot of different things,” he says. Being an independent learner kept him from putting himself in a box, he adds, as he might have if had learned from a teacher.
A year and a half ago, he and his wife Mariella moved to Bakersville. “I did so with the intent to try to establish myself as a unique style and to try to join the countless, very talented artists in this part of the country,” he says. He is particularly proud at having been invited to join the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which showcases his work in their four galleries.
A prolific artist, Nathan works out of his home studio here and at his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “I turn just about every day,” he says. Mariella, a textile artist, helps with the sanding, dyeing and inlay work of the unique pieces. “No two of my pieces are ever the same,” Nathan says, “just like everything that Mother Nature creates is unique.”
He prefers to use local woods as much as possible— maple, walnut, ash, cherry, oak, Manzanita and buckeye—but he also uses exotic woods from all over the world, among them cocobolo, bubinga, eucalyptus, mora and jarrah from Australia, Africa, and Central and South America. “As long as it’s a burl wood, I’m happy,” he says. Burls are deformities of the grain on trees, caused by injury to the tree or by virus, fungus, mold growth or insect infestation. “The older trees and the ones that have the most unusual shapes and bumps and twists are the ones I love most,” says Nathan. “I know they hold the most intriguing promise inside.”
There is only one piece of ash in his Bakersville home that was carved. Everything else has been mounted to the lathe and turned. “If at all possible, I love to leave the natural edge intact,” he says. “It is then painstakingly sanded to a very fine grit. Finally, it is oiled with natural oils only. I like to keep each piece very organic. It is my goal to let the shape of the raw piece of wood shine through the final outcome and to keep the integrity of nature’s own design.”
He prefers medium hard woods that are best to work with, and has four suppliers near Bakersville. Those working with wood removal, as he once did, learn what artists like him are seeking. He also does custom work when people bring him wood from beloved trees that have come down on their property. At the moment, he is working with apple wood that someone brought in, making bowls, wooden apples and even spinning tops, using all of the wood that he can.
He and Mariella travel to shows all over the southeast, including Art in the Park in Blowing Rock on July 13 and September 7, Downtown Asheville Festival of the Arts July 6–7 and August 31–September 1 and Asheville Fine Art Show October 26–27. He will also exhibit and sell at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands October 17–19.
“Trees have always fascinated me,” Nathan says, “their different shapes, textures and sizes. Through my work, I believe I give the tree a second life.”
To learn more, visit BowlMakerOnline.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Work at his home gallery is available by appointment. Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Asheville shops are located at the Folk Art Center, Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway; at 26 Lodge Street in Biltmore Village; and at 930 Tunnel Road. The Blowing Rock shop is located at Moses Cone Manor, Milepost 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.