Artist Profile

Balkun Woodcarving

Medium: Wood

Description:  Handcrafted decorative and functional wood sculpture

Stephen J. Balkun: Artist’s Bio I have been a woodcarver for over twenty-five years. I studied woodcarving and stone sculpture with Connecticut artists George Hanover and Elizabeth Rafael. For the past eight years I have also been working with my son, Stephen, a musician and certified luthier, making, repairing, and carving ornamental details into guitars and other stringed instruments. My background of having been a basketball player and a doctor influences both my realistic and abstract works. Many of my works have elements of human and organic forms. My carvings that are “functional art” pieces like spoons, canes, and walking sticks also relate to the human form by being designed for comfort and usability. I am also a writer. My poetry, short stories, and my book, “My Father’s Greatest Gift” are often based on faith and spirituality. This also translates into many of my woodcarvings. The act of creating something out of wood that was at one a time a living tree is a spiritual exercise for me. When I work with wood I feel a connection with all the woodworkers that have come before me. I can picture their hands touching the wood and handling the tools in the same way that I am today. I love the technical aspect of removing wood during the carving process. Unlike sculpting with clay or other materials where additions can be made and mistakes can be corrected fairly easily, care must be taken to make sure that something important doesn’t disappear forever. Sometimes I begin with a clear idea in mind and I know what must be removed and what stays, but other times I just start working the piece of wood and wait for something to appear. These often become some of my favorites because the inspiration came from somewhere outside of me. I also like working with the different “temperatures” and “emotions” of the materials. There is warmth and color in the different woods that I use. Often the grains of the wood and the streaks of color add to the mood or feel of the piece. My studio/workshop is in my home in West Hartford, CT that I share my wife Anita, an artist and teacher at The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Our son’s guitar shop is also in our home so even though he’s married and is no longer living with us we get to see him all the time. He’s also a professional musician in a band with one of our other sons, Nick. We often get to travel with them when they tour around the country, and the world. Our third son, Mark owns a Crossfit Gym in Hartford, is married and has blessed us with three grandchildren. I have been teaching woodcarving lessons in my studio for over twenty years.

Tour Location: Connecticut Historical Society


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