Design and Philosophy

When people ask me how I learned to make furniture, I must give the inspirational credit to my father, Robert.  It isn’t that dad was a furniture builder, but rather that he remodeled and repaired or in some other way served in our house as the ultimate “do-it-yourselfer.”  From a very early age, I observed him in that role.  His gift to me is that he simply allowed me the opportunity “to try.” As a result, I often had a hammer or saw in my hands, so “doing” became an inherent way of “knowing.”

The art furniture thrust of my life began in my twenties, when as a young husband, I decided to build a few pieces of furniture for our home. Since then, I have engaged in a considerable amount of personal study regarding design, technique and process. The process (or “spinning out”) of a creation is a completely fulfilling endeavor. Creating in wood is not unlike creating in other art forms. For forty years, my main profession/vocation/passion was that of music and musician. Indeed, the woodworker and the musician in me are really not two sides of the same coin, but rather more like the fusion of a single entity.

I love creating works of art, which serve to enhance the aesthetic richness and value of daily life. That is, my art furniture designs are intended to be functional, yet deeply imbued with expressive content. The materials employed are principally hardwoods (domestic and exotic), and various finishes that protect and enhance without significantly altering the natural grain and color of wood. The joinery employed is both traditional and non-traditional, depending upon the aesthetic and structural requirements of each piece.

My great joy in making a piece of furniture is just that—creating—a piece of furniture: it begins with a thought, which leads to an idea, which then moves toward thinking (designing in one’s mind) about function, shape, color, form, dimensions, wood species, and finish.  Then begins the actual “paper and pencil” or digital design work.  Once the design is complete, I send it to the client for feedback.  Finally, I travel to a lumber supplier, where I invest thoughtful time, poring over the available lumber possibilities for the project.  All of this happens before I bring the “potential” piece into my shop to begin building.

balance

Balance is a primary value in life and in art, and is a design element often referred to when discussions of great art occur.   For one who appreciates or loves art, the moment when an art piece seems to "come alive" is the moment when the piece captures and clarifies one’s emotional or subjective reality.  A sense of balance within the art is a powerful element inherent in such an experience.   Indeed, many say that truly great art symbolizes what life feels like.   Then too, when we think of balance, we often think of a sense of equality--equal distance, equal weights, equal amounts.  In terms of art furniture, this might refer to the focal point of a piece being in the middle, or shelves of a cabinet being equally spaced.

However, a number of magnificent artists of the past considered the proper balance to not be "equal" or "50/50," but to be 61.8%.  This figure is often called the “Golden Proportion” or the “Golden Mean.”  Whenever appropriate, I seek to employ the Golden Mean in my design work.  (On a personal note, I find the Golden Proportion to be a highly appealing design element.)

Coda

The process of performing a piece of music and the process of building a piece of furniture hold a number of common experiences. Perhaps the most significant commonality is that during the actual “performance,” decisions are made which modify, alter, or nuance the piece.  Such decisions are somewhat of a mystery, in that they are unknown to the creator until he/she is in the midst of the creation. In music, such a decision may involve delaying the resolution of a phrase, performing staccato notes with a lighter and more buoyant articulation, or seeking less dynamic intensity from the mid-range instruments.  When building a piece of furniture, the decision may involve leaving the edge of a table top with more “definition”, or rounding the corner of a leg just a bit more to “soften” the look, or adding one additional coat of tung oil in order to increase the luster. 

These types of decisions are not contained in the musical score or the original sketch of the furniture--but rather, are, nevertheless, creative decisions, which improve the sound of the music or the appearance of the furniture in profound ways.  The results tend to capture one's sense of imagination and to clarify "what life feels like." For me, the knowledge of joy and fulfillment that I experience throughout the creative process is deeply fulfilling, and that process helps to define the difference between art and utility, stasis and movement, neutrality and possibility.