I always start with the material. My wood comes from a variety of sources, including commercially milled hardwoods from a regional dealer, locally salvaged urban trees, and occasional items that I find.

Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to make before I have the wood, and sometimes it’s the other way round. In either case, knots, waney edges and the other so-called defects that I find in the wood – what might be called, in general, character marks – are a source of inspiration and may be featured prominently in the piece, as part of the natural randomness of the tree, in opposition to the geometric lines imposed by the design; or the very design may be based on individual peculiarities of a board.

My designs usually start with a plain modern style, but before I have finished there are more curves and angles than one might expect. I enjoy working with contrasting woods, frequently using the contrast in color and figure to bring out a curving joint line, and occasionally there is visible exposed joinery.

I use a mix of hand and machine processes, choosing the methods that seem most efficient for making one or a few pieces at a time in a one-person shop of 950 square feet. Frequently some elements of a design are discovered during fabrication, and I figure out how to produce them on the fly.

Everything I make is intended to be used.

-Robert Zlomke

Bob in his workshop
Bob working in shop