Hang Ten on a Wooden Wave

For woodworker Michael Hampel, his wave sculptures are a way to bring the ocean to him. “About 10 years ago, I got back into surfing,” he says. “When you’re going over a wave, there’s a second where you can see right through it, and that’s what I’m recreating.”

Hampel, 47, grew up in Southern California and after high school moved to Chelan, Wash., where he lives on a small farm. “I’ve been building things since I was a child,” he says. “I’ve done farmwork, construction work and contract tree-grafting. Right now I have a small orchard with a lot of fruit trees—cherries, plums, kiwis and pears.”

When Hampel began his woodworking career, his focus wasn’t sculpture. “My main interest for years was doors and other practical things,” he says. “Then I started woodturning and got excited about that and began to make bowls and vases. My
sculptures came out of work I was doing on the lathe.” Shell Wave (pictured) is part of a series of sculptures Hampel makes in a 600-square-foot studio on his property. Each piece is begun on a lathe and turned out with a core in the middle. He uses special carving tools to finish each piece and then applies a tung oil finish.

Shop Talk

“I really enjoy making art out of natural materials,” he says. “A lot of the wood I use is salvaged. I find it or it might be from a tree that got taken down on someone’s property.” Each sculpture takes 80 to 100 hours to complete.

Sculpting with wood lets Hampel explore his chosen medium in new ways. “With bowls, the form is set from the process,” he says. “With these pieces, I enjoy breaking open the shape. It’s very satisfying to have the freedom to work with shape however I want.” The 12-inchwide and 9-inch-tall Still Wave, made from English walnut root, is $2,400.

Contact wood sculptor Michael Hampel via His work is also at the Riversea Gallery (1160 Commercial St., 503-325-1270) in Astoria, Ore.