The Maker: Joe Krutulis
Using fallen tree limbs that once swayed in the breeze, a Southern Indiana craftsman creates gorgeous mobiles.
Engineer-turned-artist Joe Krutulis routinely drags dead tree limbs home from his daily walks near Martinsville. “People say, ‘There goes crazy Joe again,’” he says. “I may look funny dragging dead branches around, but they’re treasures to me.” Seven years ago, the self-described “Mobile Whisperer” began transforming those treasures into kinetic sculptures featuring abstract shapes, fish, birds, and bicycles.
“I only work with dead Indiana wood,” he says. “I like the branches to be spalted [containing black, irregular lines] and have a bunch of interesting characteristics.” The Indiana Artisan is particularly drawn to maple burls, dogwood, and Osage orange’s yellow glow. Some of his mobiles include as many as 23 different Indiana woods.
“I like to feature the wood and the motion,” he says. To that end, each element rotates 360 degrees, constantly moving. “Also, no space is left empty,” he says. “It’s a continuously changing design. I look at it like four-dimensional art. You have the three-dimensional space, and it changes with time.”
To make individual elements, Krutulis cuts the dead limbs to search for interesting patterns created by decay. Then he uses a scroll saw to cut rough shapes, fine-tuning with a power belt sander and hand-finishing with sanding blocks. All elements of the mobile get a simple water-based polyurethane finish. (This treatment makes rinsing dusty mobiles in the sink possible.) Organizing and assembling all of the pieces into a finished mobile can take two days to five months, which is why they cost anywhere from $50 to $4,900. But how can you put a price on something that moves you like these do?
To see more of Krutulis’s work, visit his website.