The ART of Fine Furniture

Art: “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Furniture:  “The movable articles in a room or an establishment that make it fit for living or working.”

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” ~Louis Nizer

Many people in society have arrived at a place where it is “acceptable” for furniture to last only a few years, as long as it is offered at an “acceptable” price. The majority of furniture is mass produced using materials that are sourced primarily for their quantity and homogenous aesthetic. Through this process, more often than not, these furniture pieces are void of human craft, with the exception of “some assembly required”. While a piece may embody aesthetically pleasing qualities, it hardly invokes the desire to touch and experience on an intimate level as a handcrafted piece of studio furniture does. In the millennial ritual of shopping for furniture, a hand crafted piece of studio furniture is rarely even considered by most consumers.

Wharton Esherick’s, Saw Horse Table inspired Desk. 1929
Wharton Esherick’s, Saw Horse Table inspired Desk. 1929

Every day I am inspired to do my part in keeping the art of making studio furniture alive. In my work I push myself to explore the limits of furniture and delve deeper into the realm of art. Today’s studio furniture makers such as Seth Rolland, Mark Laub, Tim Gorman, and Craig Johnson are contemporary artists that push the limits and continue to make creations that are the best among today’s studio furniture makers. Like the early American studio furniture makers, Wharton Esherick, Wendell Castle, Sam Maloof, and George Nakashima, the studio furniture makers of today will continue to create pieces that will challenge people to expand their view of what furniture means in our lives and homes.

Seth Rolland’s Trimious Desk, 2010
Seth Rolland’s Trimious Desk, 2010

Often when people are viewing my work they ask me:

“What would I use this piece of furniture for?”, or
“How long did it take you to make this?”

I usually respond with: “Once you own the piece, you can use it anyway you choose.” I am comfortable with my work serving utilitarian needs, and more, I would be honored if it were to fulfill a desire for having art present in a living space. Most contemporary studio furniture pieces are works of art, as well as interactive pieces of art that beg, or even need, the individual to partake in them. Experiencing the function of the piece is integral to appreciating it. The draw to maintain some element of utility is one of the most intriguing aspects of being a studio furniture maker. This is what keeps a studio furniture maker grounded in the roots of the craft, it keeps us connected with tradition and it pushes us to think more deeply about each facet of our work. My goal when making a piece of studio furniture is that when seen for the first time, the viewers are pleased with what they see, they find the work beautiful, and it evokes an emotional response. They are pulled closer to touch and explore the piece.

Leonard Guidroz, my mentor, who has taught me many things, the least of which was how to make studio furniture, had an insightful response to the question: How long did it take to make this? He would say, “Well, I am 62 years old.” The first time I heard it I knew this response was born from a place of honesty. It was a truthful explanation of how that particular piece came to be. I often see something happen in people’s eyes when I share Leonard’s response. They seem to realize the importance of life experience in the creation of art, and how wonderful it is to use one’s cumulative skills and inspirations in this way. Creating art, by all means, is not the easiest way to make a living, but the way I see it, art makes our homes fit for living.


The Art of Fine Furniture

June 21st – September 11th 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday June 21st at 1pm. (Open to the public)
Winona County History Center

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