The Art of Wood Carving

An Interview with Aleph Geddis

With an appreciation of geometry, Northwest Coast Native art, world travels, and family mentors, local wood carver Aleph Geddis has cultivated an artistic journey true to his inner calling.  You may have seen his impressive one-of-a-kind 18.5 ft piece of art at the flagship Filson retail store in Seattle, but that’s just one of his many impressive creations.  As an artist, he prides himself in staying true to his creative vision without compromise and finds value in taking time for each step of the process.    “I think this day in age, with so many distractions, making something with your hands and being present with that process is so important.  It always brings me to my center and makes everything ok,” says Geddis.  Bellevue lifestyle caught up with him to learn more about what inspires and draws him to his craft.

Tell us about your artist journey. 

I was lucky enough to have my mom marry a very talented wood carver, wooden boat builder.  I grew up in and around the carving shed, mostly making swords and other playful objects.  I started sculpting with bees wax at an early age in Waldorf school.   The impermanence of the substrate helped me focus on process more so than the final piece due to that once complete, all the wax could be reused for the next project.   I always loved to sculpt but never knew that carving was going to be my main area of focus.  When I was 19 my dad taught my friends and I a carving class and it turned out that I had a knack for it.   I was instantly inspired and dove in full force.  At the time my dad needed an apprentice to help him with his bird carving, so I started working with him full time.   For many years I worked alongside him helping him with his commissions, mostly carving realistic flora and fauna.  At the same time, I also began my study of geometry, mostly the platonic solids and how to make them out of wood.   Since then, I have been slowly going more and more into the abstract using the structural building blocks of the geometry.   I am on a never-ending search for the balance between structure and fluidity, the hard and the soft.  Wood has always been my favorite medium to work in mostly because of the feeling of the chip coming off as a sharp blade cuts through the wood.  It is such an intimate process with each wood having different qualities. 


You created an 18.5 ft piece art for Filson’s retail store in Seattle. Tell us about your appreciation of Northwest Native art and how it influences you.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I have always been drawn to native art.   I especially love all the mix of animal and human characters; they are so magical and evoke so much feeling.  Early in my artist path I studied northwest coast native art and was fully consumed by it.  There is a sense of form and relationship between the compound curves that is very special.  The steps I learned to carve early on my artist path are still the process I use to carve my abstract and geometric pieces currently.


What is your process when starting a new project?

I start a project with lots of drawing, though drawing does not come naturally.  I think more 3d and learned to draw in order to make my sculptures that I had in my head.  In making a big project, after my preliminary drawings, I then carve a scale model.  That way, I learn the steps to be taken on the full-sized piece.   I have different areas of study and each new piece is informed by the previous works.  It’s like I have different story lines that continue to grow and evolve but building from the previous characters.  With my new works it feels like I am learning a new language and like I am just now learning to write. 


What and who inspires you?

I am inspired by process and love to watch people making things by hand and the steps they go through to create.    I look at a lot of sculpture from the mid-century and just before.   I discovered Brancusi after I already started carving geometric totem poles.  I love his raw yet refined style; he was way ahead of his time.  I am really inspired by West African textiles and masks, like those of the Dogan tribe.  My stepdad has been a huge influence on me and is a big part of who I am as an artist.  His open-door policy with the carving shed and the way he shares everything he knows so freely is really inspiring.    I am very grateful for the time I was lucky enough to spend with Duane Pasco.  His process and focus are impeccable, he finishes one step completely before moving onto the next.  It sounds simple but is not always easy.  



What challenges do you experience in your artistic journey?


The most challenging part of the artist path for me is finding the balance of making an income and being true to my art without compromise. Doing a lot of commission work early on with my dad, and sometimes almost feeling like a surrogate artist, lead me to be very selective in making pieces for people.  I only make pieces that I am inspired to make and what I would already want to make without the commission.  I have been lucky enough to have a lot of support on my path by people who get what I am doing. 


Describe your style.

I really don’t know how to describe my style.  If you found one of my pieces buried in the dirt, I would want you to not know if it was from the future or the past.  An ancient future of sorts.  I want you to see that it was made by a human and feel that energy in it.  My recent works I see as place holders.  They are meant to ground and center, and then transport you from that space into new uncharted territories.

You can find Aleph’s work at Glasswing in Seattle and The Window in LA.  He is also starting to do “secret sales” find him online to be in the know at alephgeddis.com

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