Artist of the Week: From Woodworking, to Geography, and Back Again

Charlie+Hastings%27+displayed+his+woodwork+of+various+types+of+wooden+symmetry+at+Arts+of+the+World+Gallery+on+Friday%2C+September+16%2C+2016
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Artist of the Week: From Woodworking, to Geography, and Back Again

Charlie Hastings' displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

Charlie Hastings' displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

Charlie Hastings' displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

Charlie Hastings' displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

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Artists come to their vocations through paths as varied as the mediums and subject matter that calls to them. For Charlie Hastings, a local woodworker, yoga teacher and artist, the path was less a straight line and more of a spiral circling outward, leading him away from the family business in which he grew up – a custom furniture business called Wood Revival located in West Valley – and eventually back to it. It was after he returned to the family business that he discovered a love of building wooden altars out of, for lack of a better term, scrap wood.

Hastings got a Bachelor’s degree in Geography at the U, though he kept up the custom woodworking on the side, finding clients and working for himself to pay for school and support his family. He planned to go back to the U for a graduate degree, going so far as apply to a program and be accepted.

Charlie Hastings' displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

Charlie Hastings displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

“I finished my undergrad and I had a plan to go to grad school,” Hastings explained. “In the end, I couldn’t afford to go. As soon as I got done with my undergrad degree, people started knocking on my door for custom projects and I immediately went to work full time.”

About four years earlier, he’d started taking yoga classes to strengthen sore back muscles and found himself hooked. “Yoga set me free,” Hastings said. “It was really amazing how letting go of what I thought needed to happen, all of a sudden the path unfurled itself before me. That was a really powerful experience.” Instead of entering grad school, he pursued yoga teacher training; he now teaches at Avenues Yoga. He also eventually found himself back at the family company, both building custom furniture and helping run the business side of things.

The concept for the beautiful wooden altars, Hastings said, was inspired by his father. “Building furniture, I’m always re-sawing wood, so taking a piece of wood, cutting it in half, opening it up, […] It’s just part of what we do to make solid wood furniture. So it’s always been [something I’ve been] familiar with. And my dad has been doing this for a long time, and he started saving interesting pieces of wood. He’s the one that kind of introduced the concept of this.”

Hastings was building a kitchen for a client when he stumbled across the piece of wood that would become his first altar. “I was totally blown away by it [when] I opened it up,” he said. “I knew it was special, it was beautiful, so I kept bringing it along. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it and then I realized, oh maybe I should do an altar. I could do a platform. And then I realized that I wanted to put a little statue on it. But I didn’t really want to go out and find a statue so I set an intention to let the statue find me.”

Charlie Hastings' displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

Charlie Hastings displayed his woodwork of various types of wooden symmetry at Arts of the World Gallery on Friday, September 16, 2016

The materials and construction choices and even what went on the altars revealed themselves to him incrementally, often surprising him as the work progressed. The second altar Hastings built began as a piece of wood he got from a guitar-maker friend. The wood was intended to be a guitar back, but it had imperfections which made it unsuitable for that application. It was still beautiful, however, and Hastings took it back to his wood shop and turned it into another altar.

Asked why he continued to pursue this “unpractical” side of woodworking even though it wasn’t the direction in which he’d always imagined he’d go, Hastings replied that things “kept happening. My brother coaxed me into trying for the Utah Arts Festival and I got in. And I got in for next year as well, because I got an [Artist Marketplace] Award of Merit, which is super cool. So the project lives on.” After the arts festival, Hastings also had a show at Arts of the World Gallery in Salt Lake City that took place a few weeks ago.

What he loves most about his new pursuit, Hastings said, is that “I build custom furniture, so I go into someone’s house and they say it want to be like this, and it has to be a certain kind of wood, and I work up a plan, and then I go. So I’m always trying to realize somebody else’s vision. But with this, I can sit with a piece of wood and take it in whatever direction I want to. I get to play and end up where I end up.”

What’s next for Hastings? While he still has obligations to meet and plans to continue teaching yoga, the future’s wide open. “I wouldn’t mind traveling for shows,” he said, “after I figure out what I’m doing. I have a van and I really like road-tripping. I could do three or four shows a year in the southwest and the Pacific northwest. It all has to fall into place. It’s not quite there yet, but I have time. It’s back to that idea of the path, and allowing things to fall into place. I don’t want to force anything. I want to apply myself and I want to let it come together.”

For Hastings, the pleasure of pursuing his craft, wherever it takes him, is as much about letting the path unfold before him as it about getting there.

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@kitkatallred