Like the Byrds singing “Turn! Turn! Turn!” such is fine-art woodworker John Koch’s life. You can see and purchase Koch’s works this weekend at the 13th annual Breckenridge Main Street Art Festival, Friday through Sunday, July 25-27, at North Main Street and Wellington in Breckenridge.
“From the gathering of the wood, through the entire process, I work alone,” the Rifle resident said. “When you work on a wood lathe, you are known as a wood turner. I have tried to be different than most turners, coming up with creative pieces that capture nature and its beauty.”
Sixteen years ago, Koch started inlaying turquoise stone, antler, metals and coal, as well as many other stones and shells, which sets him apart from others who now try using synthetic colored plastic.
“I’m also known for my log jewelry boxes with hidden compartments and puzzle pieces,” he said. “Once QVC (home shopping network) selected me to be on the buying station for a true Colorado gift, and they sold 789 of my jewelry boxes in 15 minutes.”
Koch has won many awards at shows for wood, most unique art, mixed media, sculpture and, once, ceramics.
“They thought my wood was ceramic because of my finish,” he said. “That was funny, but I took the money.”
Mainly, Koch uses Colorado woods such as aspen and juniper and will turn anything “I can figure out how to get on a lathe.”
“Woodworking has been a passion since I was a kid,” Koch said. “In 1984, I told my accountant I was going to start a new business making wood products and do art shows. He told me I was stupid, but I have made a living ever since. I had more of an imagination than he knew.”
Koch got his start in the construction business.
“Out of high school, I got a job nailing drywall, before the days of screw guns,” he said. “For six months, I nailed off sheets of drywall until they let me start hanging it. Then I became a drywall finisher and texturer, and 15 years later I had one of the biggest drywall companies on the Western Slope.”
Koch’s been doing art shows for 30 years, with the most in one year numbering 22.
“My norm has been about 12,” he said. “I have shown in most Western states and have now concentrated on Colorado in the summer and Arizona in the winter.”
Mark Beling’s Mountain Art Festivals are among Koch’s favorite venues.
“I was at the first show Mark did in Breck, and he was kind to let me do every show he has ever put on,” Koch said. “It has been a real pleasure and very profitable relationship. He’s created a great venue for the art world in Colorado.
“In all my travels over the years, Breckenridge I consider my ‘home’ show. I have sold my pieces to people from all over the world. With a true piece of Colorado wood, they take home part of Colorado. It’s a reminder of how great Colorado is, and they want to come back. Yes, they love nature and creativity.”