When it comes to woodworking, there is much more than meets the eye. Begin to peel back the layers, however, and you discover just how much artistry goes into this craft.

To start, there are more than 100,000 species of wood. Within these species, the complexity grows with various colors, grains, textures and figures such as birdseye, burl, curly and quilted. But this diversity is what gives woodworkers a unique and varied palette from which to work, and that’s what attracted sculpture artist Brian Sykes to this art form.

Brian was drawn to wood at a young age and also had an eye for high-design pieces of furniture. He decided the only way he’d be able to own truly unique pieces was to learn how to create his own. So, after studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Brian began his career as a furniture designer, which he would do for three decades.

But eventually, he found himself craving something different––something with more artistry and creativity. His curiosity to explore what else was out there brought him to the wood-turning lathe. It was kismet. Brian fell in love with the craft and began delving into the wide world of wood and how it could be sculpted, painted and dyed to create unique vessels.

Brian’s palette consists of a variety of interesting woods such as camphor, maple burl, buckeye burl and flaming box elder, to name a few. Depending on the appearance, he’ll either leave it natural or in some cases, will paint, dye, embed with turquoise stone, or blend various woods together to create his unique works of art.

Spend any amount of time with Brian and it’s instantly obvious he knows wood inside and out. It’s also clear he is as equally passionate about the art form as he was when he discovered it 25 years ago.

Read on or watch the video below to learn more about Brian, some of the unique species he works with and how he puts his own spin on his designs.

When did you know art was your calling?

I fell in love with it when I was probably 18 and saw what other people were making, and I wanted to do that. I wanted to have these beautiful pieces of furniture and the only way I could do it was to make them. So, I started at a school for American craftsmen in Rochester. There were only nine freshmen in the class. It’s a very select school, so I was very happy to do that and to learn that. And I’ve been doing it the rest of my life.

How did your journey progress?

I’ve been creating art most of my adult life. I went to college for furniture design at RIT––the Rochester Institute of Technology––and I started out there in electrical engineering. But I found my passion in wood, which I’ve done the rest of my life. Making cabinets and furniture was what I did for 30 years. Then, about 25 years ago, I got into wood turning, which is done on a lathe where the wood is spun and carved while it’s spinning.

What do you love most about creating art?

Art saved my life. Being involved with art, and the love of art, brought me away from bad influences and gave me a direction. I enjoyed doing art more than I enjoyed doing anything else, and that’s what saved my life.

How has your work evolved?

Well, for many years I was more proud of the craftsmanship and working in wood––how fast and how accurate I could build something and how nice it was. And then when you become a craftsman. Then you can make the next jump to being creative, and that’s rewarding.

What brings you back to the Celebration of Fine Art?

This show, this venue of being able to talk to people and connect with people and talk about my art is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I can’t talk about it without getting emotional. It’s connecting with people that makes this the most rewarding thing, and that’s a person-on-person connection that you make at this venue that you don’t make anywhere else. You don’t make it at a gallery because you’re not there. It’s wonderful here.