ARTIST MEMBER John C. Starinovich

John attended Michael Coffey’s School of Fine Woodworking from 1977-1979 in Vermont. While in school he designed and made contemporary pieces that were sold out of Hawkins House Gallery in South Shaftsbury, Vermont. One piece was chosen to be presented in fine Woodworking Second Edition Biennial Design Book. During that time he was also accepted into a juried show at Frog Hollow Craft Show entitled “Under Their Roof” in Burlington, Vermont showing a Cherry hutch. While attending school, he apprenticed under Michael Coffey and was introduced to power carving and made several pieces in his style. He applies that knowledge to his work today with many innovations.

After moving to Connecticut, while mountain biking in 2004 he came upon a downed Maple tree with three eye catching tree holes. He was compelled to return with his chain saw to remove them not knowing what he was going to do with them but his first goal was to preserve them as most decay or become firewood. A year later he made his first mirrored wall hung sculpture. The first two pieces were cleaned up, mirrors installed and left in a natural state. He later added sculptural carving to the third one.  He is influenced by the flowing lines seen in water, ice, erosion by the elements and living processes and is impressed by the decay and healing process of trees to survive. He uses traditional hand and power tools such as Dremels, Foredom flex shaft and flapwheels to create curves to complement and enhance the natural piece. As he works with each tree hole he creates inner worlds with carved deer antler, brass, silver, Herkimer quartz crystals, various woods, painting, gems, shells, green wood, mountain laurel root and many other found and carved  items to adorn his pieces. LED’s have been incorporated in some pieces illuminating the mirror and an interior world to be explored.

The raw tree holes are flattened by cutting on the band saw and jointer. Some pieces too large for his machine are brought to privately owned larger band saws.

He only gathers from downed trees, a sustainable resource as he knows the importance of standing trees being a habitat for wildlife.

Unseasoned tree holes are bagged and kept wet and warm in a controlled decay process. The mushrooms and fungus that develops aids in bark removal and preserve the cambium layer while adding color variations known as spalting to the wood. This process takes months. Once bark is easily lifted from a tree hole it is removed from the bag, the debarking is done and the lengthy seasoning process begins.

After flattening out the back of the tree hole a pattern is made for the mirror. He cuts the custom piece of mirror and the back of the tree hole is routed out for placement. ( A paper template is included) The process is very tedious. 1/8″ Luan plywood covers the back and picture wire is used to hang them on the wall.  The first tree hole was 5 inches wide by 10 inches tall and a depth of 4 inches weighing 1 pound. To date (2021) the largest tree hole is 42 inches tall 14 inches wide 6 inches thick and weighs 30 pounds. Some tree holes are from a trees estimated to be up to 150 years old.

Each piece is one of a kind and leads to a new discovery and or process. While making a piece he refers to it as an episode. He honors the uniqueness of each tree hole.  No stain is used.  Highly decayed areas are treated with 2P 10 wood adhesive which solidifies the wood to be worked. The pieces are sanded thoroughly then finished with flat lacquer and buffed. Some highly decayed pieces have been finished with 2P 10 wood adhesive which can be sanded and also provides a nice finish.  Each piece is stamped with the makers mark, dated and given a name.

The process is grueling but driven by his passion to preserve these parts of nature. His pieces have been described as whimsical to avant-garde. More to the point, someone said “I’m amazed at what you do with a piece of rotten wood.”

His philosophy is creating functional art form by using a blend of himself and Mother Nature together to preserve that part of nature, the tree hole.