To meet Charles Farrar is to meet a man whose warm and engaging personality makes him likable even before you learn what a talented artist he is.
Originally from South Hill, Virginia, Farrar now lives in Concord, North Carolina. After working many years in the telecommunications industry, he retired in 1995. Since then, he has honed his skills as a studio artist and refined his wood-turning skills. He’s also working on an advanced degree in church social history.
Farrar produces elegant wooden vessels and sculptures. He also demonstrates and teaches his craftsmanship in many venues. His work has been shown in cities across the country and is represented in various individual and corporate collections.
What motivates you to create art from wood?
My interest in fashioning wood art comes from my lifelong fascination with the many properties of wood, such as grain patterns, colors, tactile qualities and even its often intoxicating aromas. I love using wood that has existed sometimes for over 100 years and giving it a whole new life as a thing of beauty that might be appreciated for yet another century.
How did you get started?
In 1992, I purchased my first turned-wood vessel. It was made by a very accomplished North Carolina woodturner, David Goines. When I told him a year later I wanted to purchase another vessel and learn more about his craft, he became my mentor. I’ll always be indebted to David for his important guidance.
What other cultures with wonderful woodturners have you admired?
I am fascinated by the Egyptians of North Africa, who are credited by many historians as having given the world the tool we now call the wood-turning lathe. Wood turning is now thousands of years old, and the wood lathe has become a modern, electrified tool. However, in some places, the lathe is still operated manually, as it was centuries ago.
What kind of tools do you use?
My primary lathe is a 1,500- pound treasure that was custom built by John Nichols of Portland, Oregon. Because I do many more hollow vessels than I do open bowls, I have an assortment of gouges used to remove bark and wood from the outside of my forms and another assortment of hook tools with cutters to remove all the inside wood. Basically, I look at a “blank” of wood and decide to remove everything that is not part of the piece I envision.
After you have formed an object, how do you typically finish it?
When I turn green wood, it’s important that most of the moisture is gone before I apply the finish. After a multi-grit sanding process, I apply finishes in a separate dust-free spray room. Although some woods show best with oil finish and others with colorful dyes, many wood tones and surfaces show beautifully under a clear, highgloss finish, which I use often.
What are some awards and distinctions of which you are proud?
A work of mine purchased by Bank of America for the renowned John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American master artists was recently accessioned into the permanent art collection at the Studio Museum of Harlem. In 2010, the Mayor and City of Charlotte, North Carolina, welcomed President and Mrs. Obama to town with a gift of my work, which made its way to The White House Collection. Finally, in late 2017, I was honored by the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte for achievement in the arts with its annual Spirit Award.
Where can your work be purchased?
I’m currently negotiating new representation with a fine gallery in Charlotte. I also welcome commissioned projects.
Any thoughts about what you’d like to accomplish in the future, artistic or otherwise?
I’d like to complete a dissertation to honor the Venerable Doctor Erasmus Lafayette Baskervill’s life and work in the U.S. Episcopal Church. His efforts were Herculean yet mostly undocumented. The story of this great church leader is not just African-American Christian history but Christian history and should be fully revealed.
For more information, visit charlesfarrar.com.
Mary and Charles Love are editors of Charleston Style & Design.