Forging Dreams into Beauty
Central Oregon is home to many talented artists. The breadth of our high desert landscape and wealth of adventures—from day hikes to backcountry treks—make it almost impossible to avoid divine influence in our surroundings. Add the realization most people move, or stay, here for the beauty or outdoor experience, and you get a diverse selection of appreciative craftsmen with never-ending inspiration. Three such artists—Will Nash, Waylon Rhoads, and Justin Kelchak—have taken their inspiration and carved out a creative path within their own mediums.
Growing up, Justin Kelchak didn’t realize he was wandering down the path of becoming an artist. Homeschooled until tenth grade in Northern Michigan’s Traverse City, Kelchak used to wander down to his father’s basement shop to watch—and occasionally help—him repair guitars. In 2003, at 18 years of age, he packed his snowboard, hopped on a Greyhound bus with a friend, and assumed the role of prodigal son as he headed west to Bend. Upon arriving in Central Oregon, he began welding and metal work, got a job at a foundry, and became foreman after a year. His work at the foundry, helping other artists forge their dreams into artwork, led him to create art of his own.
Today Kelchak, whose studio sits on the north end of Bend, is better known for his stunning wall, floor and tabletop fountains. In addition, Kelchak’s large-scale sculptures are beginning to gain notoriety and he hopes to unveil his bronze wildlife pieces this summer. All of his artwork—from the beginning sketches to the finished products— take their cues from the outside environment.
“I am inspired by the curved and organic lines of nature,” says Kelchak. “I usually don’t know where I’m going with a piece when I start. I just work with something until it begins to take shape.”
You can find Kelchak’s artwork at Red Chair Gallery in downtown Bend or online at AuraWaterfalls.com.
Waylon Rhoads wants his heirloom-quality jewelry pieces to last longer than his clients. Priding himself on his craftsmanship and top-notch stone setting, there isn’t much that he can’t do from his downtown Bend studio. He has forged a creative workspace on Bond Street, complete with other artists to share ideas, wood stumps for hammer blows and stamping, and a colorful work table decorated by his daughter Emaline. In keeping with the family affair, his wife also works in the office.
While Rhoads specializes in wedding bands, he also works with contemporary fine jewelry, cuffs, and landscape rings. He began his path to creativity as a bored kid with his head in comic books. Rhoads worked for jewelers in Waterloo, Iowa and Eugene, Oregon before moving to Bend and finally opening Waylon Rhoads Jewelry in 2013. Since creating his wife’s engagement ring as his first piece, Rhoads hasn’t looked back. He believes communication with his clients is the most important step before beginning his signature wax carvings of the jewelry. He also keeps his overhead low, to give customers the best possible value.
“This is more than just a job, it’s a purpose in life,” says Rhoads. “I want people to challenge me with extravagant ideas.”
You can find Rhoads’ work in his downtown Bend showcase, Goldworks in Eugene, and assorted online retail outlets.
Will Nash knows a thing or two about wood. From Sapelli Mahogany’s hardness to Honduras Rosewood’s reverberation, Nash has dedicated the last two decades of his life to turning blocks of wood into music instruments, furniture and architectural details.
His reputation for attention to detail and adherence to scheduling scored him a recently-completed contract with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon Church to create their pulpit, soundboard console, stage furniture, and tables. While working on the church pieces, Nash found time to cultivate relationships with some of the top, high-end builders in town. His cabinetry and architectural detail work can be found in luxury homes and buildings throughout Central Oregon and Portland.
When Nash isn’t turning homes into masterpieces, he builds furniture and music instruments, displayed in downtown’s Red Chair Gallery and played by musicians up and down the west coast. Both passions began with a pragmatic desire to use the products he builds. For instance, his Douglas Fir swivel back chair was born out of an appreciation for the type of chair and a desire to master the style. Another example rings through his custom mandolins and guitars, as a love of music led Nash to begin his work as a luthier in 1999.
“I like working with all types of wood,” says Nash. “Luckily, my work allows me to bounce around from project to project, while still maintaining complete command of every element of each piece.”