Wood Figments combines the artistic talents of Janet and Walt Koertge. Almost three decades ago, they were inspired by the wood turnings of Ed Moulthrop.
Walt, along with master metal sculpturist Bob Dittmer, fashioned a 6,000 pound World War I turret lathe into a wood lathe that could handle six foot wood diameters. Seeing beyond the normal symmetrical wood turnings, Walt found that many of the pieces could be sculpted as well to bring out the beautiful grains and figures of the wood.
So, together Janet and Walt have created their own signature large sculpted wood turnings. The Koertges feel a strong commitment to the woods of the Northwest. They seek out island madrona, cherry and juniper, as well as maple uprooted in the Mount St. Helens volcanic upheaval. These regional hardwoods possess an inherent warmth and beauty further enhanced by fine craftsmanship.
The Koertges create works which show the maximum potential of each piece of wood. Every unique completed work reflects a fluency of form that exemplifies Walt’s instances for the qualities of the material.
In the final stages, Janet’s patient and meticulous command of finishing techniques brings the form to completion. Wood finishing is an art in itself, based on an understanding of how different woods respond best to various finishes. Janet’s experience and talents lie in working with burled and unusual woods. Her hand rubbed finishes are meant to be touched with all senses.
Today, Wood Figments has setup shop in Montana’s beautiful Gallatin Valley to continue their quest to bring fine art to the local area.
Wood Figments has evolved from evening hobby to a full-time passion, with an emphasis on large, unusual shapes. The unique blend of the Koertges’ talents is distinctive and readily recognized. They specialize in furniture, free-standing sculptures and large sculpted bowls. Their work has been represented in woodworking shows and fine galleries in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and California.
Janet and Walt both graduated university in the early 70s. They met in Colorado in 1973, married in 74. In 1976 they moved to Northern Idaho around Sandpoint, Idaho setting up a homestead on 10 acres of land. During their four years there they had their only child, a son, and met many wonderful neighbors who gave Walt the inspiration to pursue his artistic side. Myles Hougan, David & Peggy Baranski, Jeff & Cathy Detzer, and Frans & Dori Vanderzwan all contributed to the groundwork of Walt’s artistic talent.
Brutal winters in northern Idaho led Walt and Janet to Friday Harbor, WA (San Juan Islands) where they bought a 36 ft Monk cruiser and spent a year living aboard with a 4 year old. In the following 20 years Walt worked for a wonderful family, Otto “Bill” & Ann Zylstra building their dreams – first a main & guest house with car garages for 80 cars, then a personal golf course & surrounding facilities. And, of course, Walt was urged and promoted by the Zylstras to pursue his wood turning passion.
The Koertges were a big part of the art presence on San Juan Island, but after 20 years Walt and Janet packed up everything and placed the shop in storage. They took off in a small RV van to explore the National and State Parks of the Western U.S. for the year of 2001. During this time they also managed to build a completely off-grid house in N.W. Arizona.
As 2002 progressed, they were promoted to pursue their building talents in Maui where they produced the Davidson home in Makena, worked with several homeowners in Wailea, and eventually worked for the Shaws to develop a family compound in north Kihei.
Today they live in Aiken, SC and have opened a new shop in which they will continue to make one-of-a-kind works of art.