Erik Wolken

Chapel Hill, USA

furniture artist

I like to think creativity at its core is problem solving, and that is how I approach my work. Tackling the creative challenges presented to me by my clients, or by my own work, gives me the opportunity throughout the process to make decisions that will lead to someplace interesting. This is my ultimate goal. 


Erik Wolken – furniture artist!

Inspired by the world around him, both the natural and the man made, Erik Wolken bases his furniture on the interplay of simple geometric shapes–the roof line of a building, the structure of a bridge, the shields of an African tribe.

As he wanders through his sketchbooks, Wolken selects those ideas that have a personality, a sense of motion, and a purpose. As important as that origin may be, however, the reality of his desks, chairs, benches and cabinets is determined by his ability to invigorate abstract sketches with life.

At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?

As freshman in high I began daydreaming about art projects instead of falling asleep in boring classes.

What is the earliest artwork you did that you can remember?

At about age 10 or 11 I started doing pencil sketches of pictures I liked in Sports Illustrated Magazine.

Which classical or contemporary artists have inspired you?

In college I discovered a book by the furniture maker and sculptor Wendel Castle and it was one of my earliest inspirations in the possibilities of working in wood.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I think of my work as owing much to contemporary abstract sculpture, working strongly with elements of color form and texture as well in my most recent work a figurative component.

When did you first sell an artwork? How did you feel?

My first sale was a blanket chest from a student show in college and the clients told me that this piece was destined to be a family heirloom which many years later I have nor forgotten.

What's your workstyle? Do you work on one piece at a time or work simultaneously on multiple pieces?

I am a uni-tasker I work on one idea at a time one element at a time.

How do you get the inspiration for a new piece?

I am constantly drawing and keeping my eyes wide open to all things around me.

Tell us a bit about your personal life ...

In my life outside of woodworking I am an avid amateur musician playing bluegrass and other traditional music on mandolin and guitar.

“My biggest thrill as a furniture maker is the act of creation, the process by which an idea and a rough piece of lumber become reality.”

A few pieces from Erik Wolken’s gallery

Archetype Bench

Getting Schooled

More about Erik Wolken

Shows & Exhibitions

2001  Chair Show 4, Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC2002  The Thursday Club, Peace College, Raleigh, NC

2003  Three person show, Gallery WDO , Charlotte, NC

2003  CraftHouston 2003:National, Houston Center For Contemporary Craft, Houston,TX

2004  Curv-iture, National touring show sponsored by the Furniture Society

2004 Invitational- ErikWolken and Mark Gardner, Kipp Gallery at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana , Pa

2004  Emerging Artist Retrospective, Durham Arts Council, Durham, NC

2005  Music Takes a Stand, Gallery Enigma, Essex, VT

2009 Dual Personalities, Grovewood Gallery , Asheville, NC 2014 Tree to Life , Frank Gallery Chapel Hill, NC

Honors and Awards

2003  Award of Merit, CraftHouston2003: NATIONAL

2004  Artist in Residence, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Fall 2004

2004  Collectors of Wood Art, Visiting Artist Grant

2005  Instructor, Society for Contemporary Craft Summer Program, Pittsburgh, PA

2011 Studio Assistant , Penland School of Crafts 2013 Studio Assistant , Penland School of Crafts

2013 Studio Assistant , Penland School of Crafts


2001 Object Lessons: Beauty and Meaning in Art, Guild Publishing 2001-2002 Portfolio December/January, American Craft

2002  Commissions October/November, American Craft

2003  The Artful Home, Guild Publishing

2004  Design! A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists and Craftspeople, Lark Books

2005  Furniture Studio: Furniture Makers Exploring Digital Technologies, The Furniture Society

2009  Studio Furniture Today’s leading woodworkers, Schiffer Publishing

2010  Wood Art Today 2, Schiffer publishing

2012 Bespoke: Furniture from 101 International Artists, Schiffer Publishing

In The Collection Of

Jane and Arthur Mason

Center for Turning and Furniture Design, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Gregg Museum of Art and Design, North Carolina State University

Delta Airlines