Carving a Niche: Master Woodworker Alma Allen

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Ironwood, marble, jet, bronze, onyx, obsidian, alabaster and metal are just a few of the myriad materials that sculptor and designer Alma Allen uses to create his one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Specializing in woodworking and furniture art, Allen’s creations are made from simple, reclaimed materials that he finds within his natural surroundings, such as salvaged wood and stones. From custom dressers made with California claro walnut burl—his favorite wood—to sleek coffee tables made of cedar and powder coated metal, Allen’s timeless designs are chunky and solid with a distinct earthiness that reflects his appreciation for nature.


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A true master of his craft, he designs all of his pieces sans computer—and even without drawings. Instead, Allen sketches within the material itself and then carves, sands and forges the materials to make his final product. From a young age, he has worked continuously and fervently, creating an astonishing output of his sought-after sculptures. Today, his versatile body of work can be seen in galleries, hotels and storefronts around the world—including a line of flatwear designed for Esprit Europe.

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In recent years, the acclaimed, self-taught artist set up shop amidst the arid desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, where he could design and build his own environmentally friendly house and studio. According to Allen, living in the Southern California desert makes drying wood fairly easy, and the innovative artist has constructed his own solar kilns to speed up the process even more. In addition to his stone and wood carving studio, Allen set up his own bronze foundry, creating a forge using factory cement and an old vacuum cleaner canister.

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Although Allen is most comfortable roaming the deserts and mountains, he’s continuously inspired by his travels and has had stints in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans where he would eagerly carve whatever materials he came across, from abandoned furniture to broken chunks of sidewalk. To checkout more of Allen’s magnificent sculptures, furniture and artwork, visit allenpearce.com.

×Melissa Metcalf
photos by Stephen Zeigler

4 Comments

  • September 22, 2011

    Sonji Nalley

    Stephen, you are a true master! I love wood as well and hope to see your work in the future! What great inspiration! Nature gives us ideas for beautiful art, doesn’t it? Just a piece of wood and you can see a table or sculpture! Your love of the medium shows in your work! Best Regards, Sonji Nalley

  • Wow! All of that art created from the waste of others. Guess I’ll have to stop complaining about the high price of lumber these days.

  • I like ANMJ on FB & just subscribed to the email feed! :)

  • Those are some great pieces of work. Do you have any more photos? Those are great.

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