|Falling into place|
Tullis stores about 8,000 bf of lumber, which mostly comes from Higgins Lumber in Santa Maria, Calif. Tullis says his favorite wood is walnut because it holds a sharp edge. He doesn’t like maple because it’s an unforgiving wood. While it shapes out really nice, the color varies too much, he says.
“I used to buy huge planks of walnut, the lengths are getting shorter, the cost seems to be fairly stable but the lumber isn’t as good of a quality with knots … but I like knots. When I make furniture I put in the knots in the tabletop, unless the client says no knots.”
And no piece ever leaves Tullis’ shop without at least five coats of oil. “Finishing is so important, you can’t stop at coat No. 2; you have to have the patience,” he says.
When calculating pricing, Tullis considers the time he puts into a piece, the complicity of the job functions he does such as milling, sanding, joinery and any edgework, along with the materials that include various domestic and exotic woods, as well as glass and metal.
An average chair, for example, is priced at $3,000.
Tullis is more into carving now because of his recent interest in sculpture, which he used as a therapy when he had an illness and needed some time off. Tullis sold his first sculpture in a show soon after it was finished. The second one was purchased out of his shop. The third one is currently in a gallery, while the fourth is a work in progress.
“I am finding sculpture very satisfying and no less profitable than furniture. It is a total different mindset for me. Traditionally, I’m constructing furniture. With sculpture, you take away. I begin with hand gouge and mallet, then revert to whatever gets it smooth. But there is always hand work, sanding and finishing.”
Through March, Tullis’ work will be featured in an exhibit at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton, Calif., called “Progress and Ideals — 21st Century Arts and Crafts”.
On the average day, Tullis enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, hiking with his friends or camping with his family. Years ago, if Tullis didn’t have a three- to six-month backlog, he would wake up in a cold sweat. But those restless nights are over.
“I’m trying to retire, but I’m still selling pieces and getting invited to shows. I want to keep going. I don’t have to spend 10 hours a day in the shop and I’m not going to bury myself in my work. I have 100 oak trees to trim and fences to mend. I’m just taking it day by day.” n
Contact: Bud Tullis, P.O. Box 434, Solvang, CA 93464. Tel: 805-688-3758. www.budtullis.com