Perfect Craftsmanship: Highlands Artist Vatsal Corbett
A deep reverence for the miracle and mysteries embedded in a piece of wood is the animating principle for woodworker/artist Vatsal Corbett.
Jessica Kovacs first met master woodworker Vatsal Corbett while she was on a farm in Warne, North Carolina, which Corbett managed for a time before relocating to California.
Kovacs was working on commission to paint a landscape mural on a 20-foot tipi located on the Warne-based farm and she was struck by Corbett’s talent as he crafted distinct cabinetry and other works in wood.
She and her husband, Corey, own and operate Corey James Gallery at 228 South Third Street in Highlands and the couple decided to feature a few pieces of Corbett’s work.
“The craftsmanship is to perfection and you can feel that each piece is a labor of love,” said Kovacs, noting the red oak and poplar table and bench on display in the gallery. “What I especially admire about Vatsal’s furniture is that it is locally and sustainably sourced.”
Seventy-three-year-old Corbett is a Vietnam veteran, bhakti-yoga practitioner, and Hare Krishna devotee. Always attentive to fine detail, he became interested in woodworking 35 years ago and has been constructing design-oriented utilitarian pieces while also traveling and living throughout the United States.
“Conception and design are his favorite parts of the process,” says Kovacs. “His underlying current of passion is figuring something out … he just has a god-given talent for woodworking that can’t be ignored. And he loves showcasing the nature represented in the trees that he cuts down in the forest. For Vatsal, there is a deep spiritual connection to the wood. In fact, just seeing where the wood comes from inspires him to do something great with it.”
Corbett evaluates the wood type and grain, or combinations of different types of wood, before determining form and function.
“It’s neat to know where the wood comes from exactly and how it grew to be,” expressed Corbett. “You get a better sense of it being a living thing and that knowledge of life allows it to continue to reside in the finished product and not be just another object in your house.”