Sunday, June 25, 2017

June AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

Joe Valasek

AIA-Southwestern Oregon’s June chapter meeting was a real treat. Not only were the winning Eugene Parklet design competition winners announced, but attendees also enjoyed a tour of the studio wood carver Joe Valasek set up in Glenwood for his company Carveture. Though trained as a carver & sculptor using traditional hand tools, Joe is now a leading proponent of the potential and precision of automated CNC routing to create intricate bas-relief carvings.

Joe fully exploits the capabilities of 3D modeling software, 3D scanners, and computer-controlled industrial machinery to explore the artistic potential of textured surfaces and innovate carving techniques. Joe photogrammetrically translates the projective geometry of objects and textures he finds interesting to digital information he can then creatively manipulate and transfer to Carveture’s CNC machinery.

The large scale of many of Carveture’s projects would be incredibly time-consuming and thus expensive to produce without the benefit of these technologies. Joe works with various species of wood, MDF, metals, stones, plastics, and other materials. A lucrative market for Joe’s work is Hawaii, where developers of resort hotels and high-end homes prize his island-themed carvings. Using indigenous woods (such as koa or ironwood), many of the designs feature abstractions of natural motifs—leaves, waves, ripples in sand, and others.


Joe described the history of the studio Carveture now occupies. Famed master pipe organ builder John Brombaugh designed the building in 1977 specifically to accommodate the fabrication of large pipe organs. Brombaugh would go on to build dozens of spectacular organs for installations worldwide. He intended the lofty height of the main shop area precisely to allow the assembly and testing of the tallest instruments; it now provides a commodious and pleasant work environment for Carveture. The building’s remote location at the end of N. Brooklyn Street overlooking the Willamette River is likewise a world apart and an apt setting for Joe’s creative work.


The potential applications of Carveture’s decorative fine art panels, ornaments, sculpted doors, and carved and painted walls in architecture are limitless. As architects renew their interest in the aesthetic and symbolic potential of ornament, I expect the demand for products generated by Carveture’s automated technologies will grow exponentially.

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Big thanks to Joe for hosting AIA-SWO’s June chapter meeting. His presentation, offering a sneak peek into Carveture’s work processes, and the tour of Carveture’s studio, were thoroughly informative and enjoyable.

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