Wood sculptor and creative builder Charles Baker of Baker Sculptures, better known to his friends as Charlie, lives and works out of his woodland studio in Long Island City New York.
He creates works of art out of unpeeled cedar, sculptural driftwood, reclaimed lumber, stone and plant materials. Baker’s furniture and lighting fixtures have been featured in stores such as ABC Carpet & Home, and purchased by celebrated interior designers. His work has been commissioned by the likes of Hermes and Ralph Lauren for their Madison Avenue window displays. We asked Baker about his inspirations and his unique, organic approach to home and garden design.
AGB: Hi Charlie, when did this journey start for you?
CB: I started my business in 2007 but my interest in design and other visual fields started much earlier than that. My dad has been a fashion photographer for many years and my mom is a former stylist/editor, turned landscape architect. Being around or directly involved in creative projects has been common for me since an early age.
AGB: What are some of your influences?
CB: Living in the urban, industrial environment of Long Island City and the rural, beach landscape of Shelter Island has made me appreciate both natural and industrial aesthetics. A lot of my work has been influenced by my surroundings in both places. As far as other artists go, the work of people like Andy Goldsworthy and Patrick Dougherty has really inspired me.
AGB: Tell us about your wood sources? Do you think ‘sustainable’ when you start looking for wood?
CB: I tend to use a lot of reclaimed/recycled materials because I gravitate towards the look of the weathered and worn down. I also get a satisfying feeling when I find a beautiful piece of building material from a dumpster, beach or wooded area. When I’m building outdoors, one of my favorite materials is black locust wood because of its natural resistance to rot. Locust trees grow everywhere like weeds, making it very sustainable. It has a grey, gnarled bark and tends to grow quite twisty, giving it a neat look.
AGB: What’s the most difficult project you had to construct, and why?
CB: I constructed a fence a year ago that was almost 300 feet long and consisted of many panels with intricate branch patterns. Each branch connection was carefully carved to fit tight. That project took a couple months and definitely tested my patience.
AGB: Your studio is a wooden wonderland, could you or do you live like this? What kind of furniture do you have at home?
CB: I would love it if I had the time to create every piece of furniture in my place. For now, I’ve combined a few of my pieces with some inexpensive, store-bought pieces. I sometimes alter the store-bought items to give them a little character. I actually have a website for my apartment, which also serves as my dad’s photo studio by day- bakerphotostudio.com
AGB: Do you like tree houses?
CB: I am a big fan of tree houses. Just hanging out in the trees is very appealing to me. I have gotten the opportunity to build some more basic tree houses for kids but my dream is to start building more stylish ones for adults. I’ve got lots of ideas for some pretty elaborate tree structures. I just need to find a client with the proper imagination.
AGB: Finally did you do any kind of study to do what your doing, or are you self taught?
CB: I’ve mostly just learned as I go. I ask a lot of questions to other carpenters and craftsmen that I know and I refer to a lot of design books and magazines. I’d like to take some classes in the future as I’m always eager to learn new skills and building techniques.
Above Charlie Baker at work.
Below video of the Park Central doors being made.