Wood Carver Cultivates a Lake-area Clientele

Erik Wyckoff does French provincial, Italian Renaissance and Spanish mission-style wood carving.

Artisan wood carver Erik Wyckoff has never actually lived in the Lake Minnetonka area. He’s a native of Connecticut and now lives and maintains a woodworking shop in South Minneapolis. But Wyckoff feels right at home in the lake area, because that’s where he’s found the most receptive market for his beautiful, painstakingly carved wooden doors, wine cellars, mantels, tables and other decorative objects for the home.

For 22 years, Wyckoff has specialized in creating custom, hand-carved woodwork for clients who are seeking Old World class and craftsmanship, in a world dominated by computer-aided design. His tools are decidedly low-tech but authentic: an array of about 100 gouges (curved chisels) and a small mallet. He learned his
techniques from a European-trained wood carver.

Wyckoff, 48, began his study of fine woodworking at the State University of New York, where he earned a fine arts degree. After moving to Minneapolis 22 years ago, Wyckoff decided to learn classic, European-style wood carving. “I’ve always loved that style of art and design,” he says. “I’m always working on designs just for fun; I always have a big pile of drawings.”

Wyckoff looked in the Minneapolis Yellow Pages for a job in a wood shop and found his most influential teacher: Greece-born master wood carver Konstantinos Papadakis, who helped Wyckoff learn and master the French provincial, Italian Renaissance and Spanish mission styles, and techniques dating back 2,000 years.
Wyckoff works with white oak and walnut and also some harder woods, using only sustainable, domestic hardwoods grown in North America. He uses glue to assemble parts, and also uses historically correct mortise and tenon joints.

Wyckoff was drawn to the Lake Minnetonka market by the stylish new homes being built in the area. He introduced himself to a few local interior designers and architects, and his clientele has grown by word of mouth. “My art form is for people like the residents of the lake area, who seem to be passionate about creating beautiful interiors,” he explains. He relishes making “things with quality, that will last if they are taken care of,” he says.  

Interior design styles come and go, but the classic French and Italian styles seem to endure, he notes. “Someone from this area might visit Tuscany on vacation, fall in love with a vineyard there and then want to create something like it,” he says. In 1996, he did his first lake project for a major real estate developer’s new home on Gray’s Bay. Since then, he’s done four to six  projects for lake homeowners each year.

Wyckoff’s most high-profile project was the wine cellar he crafted, in the style of a famous winery in Burgundy, France, on an estate in Orono. It was featured on the HGTV show Million Dollar Rooms.

And Wayzata homeowner Cindy Herman needed something beautiful to hang in her family’s kitchen, over the range hood. Referred to Wyckoff by an interior designer, Herman commissioned Wyckoff to craft a gracefully curved, 2-inch-thick piece of walnut, adorned with a crest featuring hand-carved acorns, leaves and fruits, based on Herman’s design. It’s now the focal point of her custom-built home’s kitchen. “When we’re eating, we sit there and admire it,” she says. Herman says that, as an artist and craftsman, Wyckoff is “top of the line. You usually don’t see things with this level of detail in this day and age.”

Learn more and see Wyckoff’s work at his website or on Instagram.