We’re thrilled to introduce the work of Peter Nosler to Notary – a wood craftsman in Oregon. When we first found Peter’s boards, we were drawn to the simplicity of the designs and the way he evoked the natural beauty of the wood itself. His pieces were elegant, natural and quiet, and felt like the perfect compliment to the ceramics we make here at Notary.
We sat down with Peter to have a conversation about his work and so enjoyed the conversation we wanted to share parts of it with you. We are proud to carry pieces from artists and vendors around the world and we hope this will be the first of many articles introducing you to their work and story.
“I’m not interested in trying to force the wood to be perfect,” Peter says, as he sits beneath the shade of a thick canopy of evergreens at his home in Damascus, Oregon. “That’s probably one of the most fun things about the whole process, discovering that the wood has a mind of its own.”
Woodworking was a late career discovery that Peter soon orbited his life around. His dad was a jack of all trades – the kind of person who could make anything. Together they made Peter’s first wing chun –– a wooden martial arts dummy. Peter’s early love for martial arts grew into a decades long career as a martial arts teacher until he retired and turned his focus to another love: cheese. Peter was a cheese aficionado with a colossal cheese library in his home to prove it. It was the simplicity of cheese that drew him to the process.
“Cheese is one of the most interesting foods,” he says. “It’s so simple, just 3 or 4 ingredients – milk, salt and enzymes.”
Peter’s self-described obsessive personality was quick to fill his library with books about cheese, voraciously learning everything he could. He eventually became a cheese specialist at New Seasons, but his favorite part about the life of a cheesemonger was creating a cheeseboard. There’s an art to it it – the board being a canvas to play with the forms, colors and positions of the cheeses and fruits. And this was how the idea to make cheese boards was born.
“I don’t really know how to make things happen in my life, but I know how to point my bow in the right direction and wait for a wind,” Peter says. “Eventually a wind came along, and I started selling cheese, and then another wind came and I started making cheese boards.”
Like the way his love for cheese is driven by the simplicity of the ingredients, Peter approaches his boards with a similar philosophy. He wants the boards to highlight the natural beauty of the wood, so he doesn’t use epoxy or lamination. He simply uses oil to draw out the natural beauty of the wood, giving the boards a beautiful sheen, much like the way a rock looks more beautiful when it’s wet.
Peter’s hand-carved wooden boards are simple shapes cut from walnut, oak, and maple. He gets the wood in a raw form, and cuts and sanding each board for hours, slowly revealing the patterns and colors of the wood, eventually forming it into a board intended to display food.
“I’m a fan of the beauty in the wood, so I’m not a big fan of covering every square inch of the board with stuff,” he says. “I’m a really big fan of just wood and one glorious cheese sitting on top of it.”
Peter’s favorite board is the first board he ever made – a black walnut wood. He displays it in his kitchen and brings it out to show me. It’s filled with imperfections. It has a slight twist to it and is dotted with holes. Peter also brings out a plate of cheeses, fruits and crackers to make a spread. He tinkers around with the display for a while, placing a plum and pulling it off, placing it again. When he’s finally satisfied he makes another – a small board with a single piece of blue cheese in its center.
“When people enjoy a beautifully dressed cheese or charcuterie board there’s a buzz that runs through the room,” Peter says. “The subject of discussion becomes the food and its attributes, history, and place. I like the idea that my work might contribute to that conversation and buzz. A gorgeous, natural, wooden piece of serveware can be a strong component in setting the stage for food to do what it has the power to do in social settings. That is why I strive to create pieces that contribute to the experience, rather than dominate it.”