Construction materials form medium for art
Andrew Comstock busily sands a side table he’s making for a customer. A nearly finished matching coffee table sits atop a workbench nearby. The weight and thickness of the wood reveal its quality. Comstock has cut high grades of plywood into organic shapes and pieced them together to form the legs and sides of the table. Solid wood pieces frame the top of the table, which has been poured in concrete and stained a brownish color, giving it a worn and distressed look. Then he gives the wood a chiseled appearance overall and coats it with a dark stain.
His goal is to do something unique in an area oversaturated with furniture designers. He meshes woodworking with art to form one-of-a-kind pieces that are more personal and have more character than mass- produced factory pieces. When a client comes to him with an idea for a piece he likes to incorporate his own creativity into the mix, allowing the work to take shape and become what it will as the process progresses.
‘“I hope people will seek me out for artistic [reasons] rather than just manual labor,’” says Comstock.
Growing up in Raleigh, Comstock helped his father with woodwork in the garage and did summer jobs for a local building contractor. He soaked up knowledge from everyone around him and was always trying to tackle projects he felt were just beyond his reach. The same is true in his shop at Lyndon Street Artworks ‘— he constantly tries to build that next piece that is beyond his reach.
In the Lyndon Street display room sits a large black bar with velvet leopard skin covering. The piece is retro, distinct and oddly fascinating. Visitors to Lyndon Street often ask him where he found the old bar and how he restored it. He loves surprising them by telling them he made the entire piece by hand and that it is brand new.
The retro-modern look is back in style and popular right now, he says, but many of the items available in stores are cheaply made or are unaffordable to many people. Comstock tries to give the best of both worlds to his clients: a handcrafted piece of furniture made to last for years at an affordable price.
Comstock first came to Greensboro in 1999 to study theater design at Greensboro College. He changed his major to art and graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in art with a concentration in sculpture. This is the place he’s always wanted to be, he says, due mainly to his interest in woodworking and furniture design.
On a table in his studio sits a life-sized, futuristic-looking aluminum head with short rods protruding from it. It was one of his first sculptures made in college. Using a process called lost wax casting, he made a model from clay, then a mold from the clay, a wax model from that, then a second mold around the wax, baked the piece in a kiln which melted the wax, and then poured aluminum into the cast. From there he grinded and polished the rough piece to give it a gleaming appearance.
Since then he has made several other pieces from cement ‘— one of which looks like a human skull with broken bone fragments and perhaps pieces of hidden flesh petrified into the piece. This type of sculpture, he says, is like finding an ancient artifact. When the process is finished you don’t know exactly what you’ll get.
Like many other area artists, Comstock has to work odd jobs to make ends meet. In fact, it was at a job at a now-defunct pizza joint where Comstock first met Lyndon Street Artworks creator Erik Beerbower. Comstock was hoping to find cheap workspace to rent, since the use of power tools in apartments is generally frowned upon, and Beerbower was looking for renters for his new warehouse. The two struck up a conversation and the rest is history.
As he looks around his small, saw-dust covered working quarters at Lyndon Street, Comstock says, ‘“This studio’s kind of become my home away from home.’”
Here he’s been able to meld with other artists and learn from them. At times many of the artists work together to create pieces for area events and theaters.
The coffee table and side table Comstock is working on will take him two to three days to complete given the design process, sketching, gathering and cutting materials. As Comstock prepares to go back to work on the pieces he smiles broadly, wheels turning in his head as he contemplates what he might be working on next. The sander whines and sawdust flies and he is once again immersed in his own world of creativity.
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