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Branching out: Los Altos native's art celebrates the outdoors

Steve Schick/Special to the Town Crier
HGTV recently featured the organic twig art of Los Altos native Paul Schick on its Lake Tahoe “Dream Home” program. Schickfashions wall hangings from twigs he finds on hillsides, coastlines and in forests in Northern California.

For Los Altos native Paul Schick, a walk in the woods is more than a leisurely activity – it’s vital to his career as an artist.

Schick, a Los Altos High School alumnus who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Otis-Parsons School of Design, collects birch, manzanita, redwood and madrone sticks that he fashions into original organic fine-art constructions.

Scouring Northern California hillsides, forests and coastlines, Schick said he searches for sticks that have “lots of movement and that are fairly linear and flat.”

Working from his studio in East Palo Alto, Schick uses wood elements to craft wall hangings, columns and folding screens that range in size from a tabletop accessory to a 5-foot-high-by-33-foot-wide wall sculpture.

“Every stick you lay down is important – it all has to work together,” he said. “I love that they’re all unique – that each piece has its own personality. I couldn’t make a duplicate if I tried.”


Growing up in Los Altos, Schick said he hiked the foothills, drawing inspiration from the natural beauty of the area. His family owned a place in Squaw Valley, where he spent hours as a child hunting for rocks to paint and collecting sticks.

“It started as a kid,” he said of his art. “I love nature – trees, rivers, rocks and sky – anything that’s reflective of the outdoors.”

While attending design school in Los Angeles, the work of Charles Arnoldi, known for his paintings and sculptures made from natural forms, inspired the aspiring young artist. Still a student, Schick approached Formations, a showroom frequented by interior designers on Melrose Avenue, to sell his pieces on consignment.

“I was surprised when they sold,” he said, adding that the exposure led to commissions for custom-made pieces.

After nearly three decades, Schick still uses the same sustainable materials. For an artist, his overhead is low – the sticks, of course, are free, and the only other supplies he needs are fishing line and fumigation spray. His creations, though, have evolved.

“I can definitely see a progression from my early days,” he said. “I’m still growing, maturing and honing my craft.”

Sticking with it

Sites for Schick’s installations run the gamut from showcase homes to corporate offices, commercial businesses and even TV shows – a set designer frequently rented his twig wall hangings for scene decoration on “Will & Grace.”

His artwork has served as a backdrop for store windows at Wilkes Bashford and Neiman Marcus, and graces the walls of Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, Solage in Calistoga, the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Wynn and Venetian hotels in Las Vegas.

Last summer, he contributed a major installation to Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker’s wedding extravaganza in Big Sur, rumored to cost an estimated $10 million.

“That was quite a production,” Schick said of his project, which took six days to assemble. “It was a spectacular site and collaboration.”

Closer to home, the Rev. David Moore of Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos commissioned Schick to make an 8-foot-high-by-5-foot-wide cross for the church’s altar, and Atelier Gray at 358 State St. and Emily Joubert Home & Garden in Woodside currently carry his wall hangings on consignment.

Magazines including Architectural Digest, Town & Country, Gentry and Elle Décor have featured photographs of his work, and he appeared on screen last month on HGTV’s “Dream Home,” which selected one of his pieces for display on the Lake Tahoe dream home’s patio.

Ranging in price from $300 to $7,000, he markets and sells his art primarily via his website and word-of-mouth. Although Schick said he would love to find commercial space to display and sell his art in his hometown, perhaps at a pop-up downtown, like most artists, he remains committed to his passion.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years,” he said. “I’m a solitary guy, so it’s perfect for me. I’m doing what I love to do.”

For more information, visit paulschick.com.

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