About the Artist
Les Casteel was born and raised in Seminole County, Oklahoma. He began his college career in the field of design engineering. Later, in life he earned a degree in Computer Science. Les worked for several major American corporations and worked on projects several where a working knowledge of ergonomics was needed. Attending a workshop with Sam Maloof in 1997 set him onto the path of leaving the corporate world and transitioning into building fine sculpted rockers.
Les learned the basics of woodworking while helping to build barns, gates, fences, and tree houses on his parent's farm when he was young. He has crafted toys, tables, clocks, cradles, beds, bookcases, bowls, entertainment centers, racks and now rockers and chairs.
Influenced by the German craftsmen of the Amana Colonies in Iowa has left a deep appreciation of fine, old world craftsmanship using cherry and walnut woods. Having the chance to work and learn at the Shaker villages of South Union near Bowling Green, Kentucky, gave Les a strong appreciation of Shaker furniture and life. It instilled an appreciation of the beauty of simplicity when applied to pieces of furniture. The simple lines and design of the sculpted rockers and other furniture produced therefore tend to be very "Shaker like". Finally, Les has received training and mentoring from several prestigious chair makers including the legendary Sam Maloof of California, Hal Taylor of Virginia, and Robert Hensarling of Texas.
Les is an award winning wood carver having held memberships in several woodcarving clubs and guilds as he lived in different areas of the country. He has studied under several accomplished woodcarvers including the legendary Harold Enlow as well as Gerald Sears, Branson's Peter Engler and others. Occasionally, Les will carve a full size carousel horse or rocking horse for a client. These rocking horses satisfy the urge to do things freehand and further express creativity through wood carving. Les also produces woodturnings and has belonged to several turning clubs over the years. He is particularly fond of turning polychromatic segmented turnings, especially bowls.
Les now spends the majority of his time crafting fine hardwood rocking chairs in his mountain-top workshop located near historic Harrison, Arkansas, 30 miles south of Branson, Mo. All skills must come into play in order to build a rocker of this type. Woodworking, wood carving, sculpting, and wood turning skills are all needed to create these heirloom quality rocking chairs.
The sculpted rocking chairs, music stands and tables, I build are heavily influenced by designs of Sam Maloof, Wendall Castle and George Nakishima. I choose to sculpt and assemble from native hardwoods. Much effort is given to the use of color and grain of each piece. The majority of my furniture is made of walnut. This however, does not blind me to the beauty of cherry's grain, the color of purple heart or the wonderful cream color of maple. The techniques used to build this furniture are tried and true. Intricate often hand tooled joinery is used to enhance both the strength and beauty of this furniture. Great importance is placed on the ergonomics of each piece so that although beautiful they are very human friendly.
Developing the intricate curves of such furniture often leave hundreds of pieces of precious hardwood that normally would go to waste. I've developed a use for this wood by designing and turning polychromatic segmented woodturnings. The hardwood is cut into small pieces, glued into rings, stacked together and turned on a lathe. These become vessels, bowls, platters and such whimsical pieces such as chess sets. This allows me to waste very little material and makes it much easier to justify the cutting of beautiful native hardwoods.
2004 Wonderful World Of Wood, Tulsa, OK (1st Place Furniture)
2004 Wonderful World Of Wood, Tulsa, OK (2nd Place Woodcarving)
2004 Wonderful World Of Wood, Tulsa, OK (3rd Place Wood Turning)
2010 Inclusion in “Arts & Artists Of The Ozarks”, One of my woodturnings was included on the front cover.
1997 Seminar, “Designing Chairs”, Sam Maloof
2002 Instruction, “Building the Sam Maloof Rocker”, Robert Hensarling
2004 Seminar, “Weekend With Sam Maloof”, Sam Maloof
2005 Instruction, "Building Sculptured Rockers", Hal Taylor
2006 Instruction, “Turning Bowls & Greenwood Vessels”, David Ellsworth
Numerous, classes and seminars while attending AAW (American Association of Woodturning and SWAT (SouthWest Area Turners) association meetings, With Alan Stirt, Judy Ditmer, Bonnie Klein, Alan Lacer and others.
Woodcarving classes with Harold Enlow and Gene Sears
War Eagle Fall Show, Hindsville, AR
2004 War Eagle Spring Show, Hindsville, AR
2005 War Eagle Spring Show, Hindsville, AR
2006 Fayetteville Art Show, Fayetteville, AR
2007 Bentonville Art Walk Show, Bentonville, AR
2008 Crystal Bridges Juried Exhibition (Summer), Bentonville, AR
2009 Silver Dollar City, National Harvest Festival, Branson, MO
2010 Silver Dollar City, National Harvest Festival, Branson, MO
American Association Of Woodturners
Arkansas Craft Guild, Mountain View, AR
Harrison Art League, Harrison, AR
National Wood Carvers Association
NorthEastern Oklahoma Wood Carvers
NorthEastern Oklahoma Woodturners
Palette Art League, Yellville, AR