Coast artist turns exotic wood into art using centuries-old process

Coast artist turns exotic wood into art using centuries-old process

ST. ANDREWS, Miss. (WLOX) - Tom Thompkins owns a studio and business called Standing Bear Wood Designs. He turns exotic woods into pieces of art through a centuries-old art form. This Master Wood Artist has made a name for himself on the Mississippi Coast and beyond.

The art form is called intarsia. It’s a woodworking technique where pieces of wood are fitted together to create a mosaic like picture with a three-dimensional quality.

It started as a hobby. Thompkins got hooked after he entered a piece in a competition.

“There are over 800 pieces of wood in there. It’s all natural colors. As I took it in, the judges were walking around and they stopped and said there’s first place. It felt good,” Thompkins said.

Now it’s a profession. His pieces are featured in different galleries, and he’s a regular at events like the Peter Anderson Festival. Thompkins works in his shop in the St. Andrews community. He loves making images that reflect the environment around his Jackson County home.

“Most of the stuff I’m doing now is related to where we are. I do ocean-themed stuff,” Thompkins said.

One piece was inspired by a visit to Gulf Islands National Seashore. It features a turtle, frog and marshland plant life fashioned in wood

“I looked around and said I’ve got to do something about that. I call it Bog Buddies,” the artist said.

Thompkins makes precise cuts on the saw and sands the wood to perfection. Beautiful grain and color appears. For artists, materials are the key, and Thompkins goes to great lengths to find the most exotic woods.

“I use about 12 different types of wood. Some I can get locally, but most for most of the exotic hardwoods I have to drive up to Knoxville, Tennessee. They know me very well, and when they get an exciting piece of wood they set it aside for me and I go up there every two or three months,” according to Thompkins.

You can see more of Thompkins’ pieces by following his Facebook page.

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