Whittling in the shade of J.B. Blunk – Part 1

I have had the privilege of visiting a very special place several times over the last few months, the former home and studio of J.B. Blunk in Inverness. The most recent visit was last weekend to participate in an all day whittling workshop with Yo Takimoto. Let me tell you a little about the place and show you around and then I’ll give you a taste of the workshop.

J.B. Blunk was an astoundingly gifted sculptor who gained a national reputation for his huge but sensitively carved functional sculptures. I have spent many a summer day lounging around in the carved furniture he created at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. They are now imbedded in the Plane trees which have continued to grow up and around these beautifully aged works. You can see his iconic piece ‘Planet’ at the Oakland Museum of California and dine at one of his functional sculptures at Green’s Restaurant at Fort Mason.

Shady seating at Tassajara

Perfect for a snooze.

Nice details

Here is a short slide show of some of J.B.’s sculptures in process (made by Rivkah Beth Medow and Mariah Nielson).

But perhaps the best way to get an inkling of the mind, spirit and process of JB is to visit his home and studio which he began in 1959 and then proceeded to tinker with until his death in 2002. The hand-built house and studio is perched high on the ridge line of Pt. Reyes looking down through the forests to Tomales Bay below.

You can read Glenn Adamson’s overview of J.B.’s life here, and see more of his work at the J.B. Blunk website. Unfortunately, I never met J.B. while he was living. My connection to J.B. comes through his daughter Maria Nielson (who was born in the house – literally!) and now cares for the house and studio and J.B.’s legacy.

Here are some glimpses of the house and studio – a delightful mix of zen minimalism, NorCal transcendentalism and ribald humor.

The house approaching from the studio.

The kitchen, which always seems to be laden with delicious hand-built food!

A wall collaged from exquisitely figured sculptural off-cuts - mostly from 'Planet' I believe.

The bathroom with panoramic views down to Tomales Bay and a richly detailed hand-carved sink. The window is a glass door mounted on its side.

One of many stools - this one threatens personal damage if you're not mindful.

Cubist construction from chainsaw off-cuts.

Every nook and cranny shows the artist's hand.

J.B. studied in Japan in the 50's and you can see the influence everywhere.

Every light switch has a sculptural pull.

Even in the functioning studio everything is thoughtfully arranged.

Tools ready for action.

I love the wooden gutters on the open-air chainsaw studio

Sculptures on the grounds.

Serendipitous ones too.

The quintessence of the 'pastoral'!

More on the whittling workshop in my next post.

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