William Vollers: Found Objects and Wabi-Sabi

William Vollers: Found Objects and Wabi-Sabi


Interview with William Vollers. See his work in Vol. IV #1 of The Woven Tale Press.

What are you working on in your studio right now? (photos of works in progress are always of interest. Please include one or two.)

I’m always working on more than one piece at any given time. Actually all the materials I have are works in progress.

How did you come about working with found objects initially?

I’ve always been attracted to and have an appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness of objects in the process of deterioration. My antique collection/business consisted primarily with very primitive items having wonderful patinas, surface texture, shape and history. I always looked at these pieces more as sculpture than what they were initially made for. Think of an Andrew Wyeth painting of a weathered side of barn or open window with a tattered curtain blowing in the breeze.

In your work, you evidently draw in large part from the Japanese aesthetic Wabi-Sabi. Can you explain about how you came to arrive at this aesthetic as a foundation for your sculptures? 

I had been creating my most recent pieces, over the past five years or so, before I became aware of the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic. I have had an interest in Zen Buddhism since my early 20’s. In the course of my reading recently, I came across the term Wabi (Zen and Japanese Culture-D.T.Suzuki). The definition, sensibility, and philosophy of Wabi, Wabi-Sabi seemed to coincide with my work and Zen practice.

Can you explain about your actual process, and from where you acquire some of the found objects for your assemblages?

My pieces seem almost to evolve by themselves. I generally will select an object which appeals to me at the time, and begin to select other objects which compliment it. It’s a process of being mindful and “listening” to the object, looking at its characteristics, texture, form, color. The objects come from many sources, tag and estate sales, gifts, old dumps, barns, dumpsters, I found a wonderful piece along the side of the road the other day on a walk.


Can you talk a little about your business, Vollers Design LLC, and how elements of graphic design maybe have influenced your sculptural works? Or vice versa? 

My graphic design business was in the corporate field, very little commercial work. I was fortunate to work especially early on with very good clients who valued and appreciated the use of good photographers, illustrators and design. Many of the principles in my graphic design work had to do with balance, visual appeal, appropriateness and originality, all of which has carried over into my current sculpture work and digital imagery.

Beyond the found object assemblages and the graphics, have you experimented with any other mediums?

Many years ago I was doing paintings which combined paint and collage. I love to photograph. I’m currently working on a series of black and white images of very deteriorated, almost unrecognizable objects.

What does your typical studio day look like? 

A time to enjoy and simply “be.” I’m very grateful.



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