By day he’s a champion for solar power – but by night, weekend or vacation - Raphael Varieras’ heart lies in wood – and wood turning specifically.
Born in France, Raphael moved to the Bay Area in 2005 to attend Stanford. In between classes he discovered Oakland’s The Crucible, a maker space known for nurturing budding artists in primal art forms like wood sculpture, fire performance, blacksmithing, ceramics and more.
He was drawn to wood because his father, a painter and artist, uses wood in much of his work. “I think pretty early on there was a sense that there was something noble and beautiful about wood and working with wood, so I went there somewhat naturally,” Raphael says.
He says his love for wood comes from the sensory experience of working with it – wood has innate warmth, and allows the artist to get up close and personal with it. “I can go in the shop one morning with a block of wood that I cut off a tree the day before and can leave that day with a beautiful bowl.”
The Create Program at the Crucible provides the space and the heavy machinery he needs to transform those blocks of wood into beautiful bowls, plates and more, his craftsmanship expertly showcasing the unique grains, whorls and patterns found naturally in it.
“I think what I like most is that you never really know what the bowl is going to end up looking like. You’re starting with this raw piece of wood and even when it’s spinning you don’t really know what it looks like until you stop. It’s always a surprise.”