artist interview: brenden bohannon

APPALACHIAN ARTIST CRUSH is a series of interviews with artists from around the East Tennessee region, whose work I admire and who I want to share with the world.

From martial arts to woodworking, Brenden Bohannon has transitioned his physical mastery into the creation of beautiful works of art. But he works with more than just traditional tools--his process of creating involves electricity and fire!

Tell us about your creative beginnings. What was your earliest experience of artmaking, and what drew you in? Was creativity encouraged in your early years?

I have always liked making and doing stuff. One of the things that stuck was painting metal miniatures for fantasy wargames in a traditional art sense. I liked working on the tiny details and seeing them come to life.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, movement arts were always a huge attraction to me. Breakdance, martial arts, even a ballet once. I liked seeing what my body and other bodies could do and being able to control and manipulate that. Some injuries led me to retire from all of that.

An assortment of electrified cutting boards, by Brenden Bohannon.

An assortment of electrified cutting boards, by Brenden Bohannon.

Now I have discovered woodworking and making Lichtenberg figures. Every new piece has surprises and secrets. Those tiny details that I love so much just vault to the front if you know how to coax them out.

Tell us about your creative process--what makes it unique? How do you create your best work? What do you love most about your process?

A big part of my process is finding the right pieces of wood and looking for certain qualities that will show up once everything is done. For anyone who has not worked with wood, 90% of the job is carving, planing, shaping, and lots and lots of sanding. It is amazing what you can accomplish with hand tools and time. 

What has been a habit or focus you've had that's integral to your art practice?

Being obsessed? I tend to get really really focused on things. I started carving spoons and loved that. Just seeing what each piece turns into. The wood has its own will and spirit, so even if I sketch out a base shape and say "this will be the end of the road" the wood can say "nope" and end up totally different from my initial vision.

Electrifying the wood is a rather exciting process.

Electrifying the wood is a rather exciting process.

You can find most of Brenden's wares in-person at various local markets.

You can find most of Brenden's wares in-person at various local markets.

That being said, I try to make at least one small piece a day. The muscle memory and general skill improvement created through regular practice is vital.

Tell me about a hurdle you've had to overcome in your artmaking or art career.

I suppose the biggest hurdle since I started making things from wood was simply learning and expanding what I can do with various tools. I look at my early pieces compared to now and see such huge differences. Convincing myself to become a full time artist was probably a close second. I really would not have been able to do that without my wife, Joy. She has been a huge supporter, gives me some of my best ideas, helps out in a million ways, and is always there when I need advice or encouragement.

What is your educational background, and how does it influence your creative work, if at all?

My educational background is in Physical Education K-12 and English Literature. I suppose it lets me read books on wood working and leaves me fit enough to lift heavy pieces of wood. Jokes aside though, I think the body control and focus from decades of martial arts has benefited me more than anything from an art standpoint. It lets me continuously make minute adjustments in position to get the most out of each movement. And focus and patience keep me from setting a lot of pieces on fire when they decide to disagree.

What are you most excited about in your creative landscape in the moment?

I suppose I am most excited about expanding and getting more of my art out there and in front of people. I think more people need to take the time to really appreciate wood and all of the possibilities it brings for art.

Share your favorite local hangout & or another hidden gem.

There are tons. Let's go with the pond at Willow Springs Park. It is a great place to just slow down and take it all in.

Where can we find you on the interwebs?

Instagram: @tennesseehighlandheavythrower
Etsy: ElectrifiedWoodArt
Facebook: @electrifiedwoodartisan

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See all the Appalachian artist interviews here.