Meet the Mixed Media Artist Q&A: 2013 Award Winner Adam Crowell

Adam Crowell is a wood artist currently based in South Carolina. He creates melodic percussion instruments that are part functional art and part musical instrument. Charleston Magazine says of Crowell: “Combining his love of percussion and a lifelong knack for handiwork encouraged by his father, a hobbyist carpenter, the local musician and woodworker sculpts melodic African tongue drums that blend rhythm and song into a single artful percussion piece. Crafted with unstained exotic woods such as African mahogany, Brazilian cherry, Canary, and purpleheart, his six-, 10-, and 12-note boxed drums have caught the attentions of both percussionists and art aficionados.” Read more about the artist from the American Craft Council, The Post and Courier and the Woodworker’s Journal.

What first interested you in working in your medium?
I built my first drum for myself while working as a musician in Los Angeles. I wanted something new to play and, with woodworking guidance from my father, I built it myself. A few other percussionists wanted something similar, and I wound up making a few drum sales. When I realized that I could turn my passion into a career, I spent every free moment prototyping and refining my instruments until I had built up enough product and credibility to officially launch Boxed Music.

What is special about the medium you work with? How does it inform the work you create? 
The thing that's most unique about wood is also its greatest cause for frustration. No matter how well acquainted I am with a specific type of wood, I have to refine the process every time based on knots, wormholes and swirling grain. Wood is a fickle medium, but it's the challenge that makes the outcome so special.

What do you love about your workspace? 
My shop just outside Charleston, S.C., is in an industrial park -- a neat little cluster of businesses with everything from an Italian ice company to cabinetmakers to a private gym. Since Boxed Music consists of just me and my administrative assistant, an American dingo named Bonnie, it's nice to work within a community. Plus, I've got 1,500 square feet of space where I can generate as much sawdust as I want.  

What was your inspiration for a recent piece?
I wanted a functional piece of art that could be enjoyed by a single person or shared by a group, so I invented an instrument called the Wenzi. The Wenzi consists of three separate drums --a rhythmic high, a rhythmic low and a melody -- all displayed in a sleek, sculptural stand. Wenzi means "company" in Swahili.

You can preview the work of the 2013 award winner for best artist new to the show here. See more of Adam’s work on his website at

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