Rightnowish: Gavin Grant’s Visions in Woodworking

4 min
Gavin Grant, in front of one his sculptures.  (Pendarvis Harshaw/KQED)

Gavin Grant didn't set out to be a wood sculptor. In college, he signed up as a teacher’s assistant in a wood shop class—just to earn a few credits so he could graduate.

And then he fell in love with the smell of sawdust. Almost two decades later, he’s been carving up things ever since.

Gavin's work caught my eye as soon as I saw his sleek futuristic-looking woodcarvings. Most of them are roughly three to four feet in size. They can either stand alone or be mounted to a wall. It wouldn’t do justice to simply call his creations "s-like" figures—they’re more dragon-like.

One of Gavin Grant's sculptures, fresh off the press.
One of Gavin Grant's sculptures, fresh off the press. (Pendarvis Harshaw/KQED)

As he told me last time we met, when Gavin first had the idea to make his curvaceous figures, he kept running into a problem of getting them to be 3D and curved. So, he devised a plan: he’d score wood diagonally, pair it with a symmetrical piece of wood, and then seal the two side together, using another piece of wood to create a spine between the two—propping them up and making his creation three-dimensional.

When he breaks it down, it seems simple. A lot of very focused work, but simple still.

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Nonetheless, I can’t do it. I’ve never even tried. And I don’t think I know any other African American folks who are professional woodworkers. But, according to Gavin, there are plenty of black craftsmen and women out there—they just don’t appear on your TV screens or radios too often.

All the more reason I'm glad to have him as my second guest on Rightnowish. Click the link above to hear all about Gavin, or tune into Rightnowish on KQED-FM on Sunday at 7:34am and 9:34am. And for more of Gavin's work, check his website.

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