As a lifelong woodworker, I learned at an early age it was fun to make things. It began in my parents garage as an eight-year-old boy, a bench with hand tools and a book called “The Boy Mechanic.” Later in junior high and high school I took every shop class they offered and my skills grew.
In college I majored in industrial arts and was fortunate to have studied under Art Carpenter, a master woodworker and furniture maker. Like so many who crossed paths with this talented woodworker, I was strongly influenced by his sense of style, design and craftsmanship. What he did for so many of us was to free us from traditional design and technique and open our eyes to imagination and originality.
After college I got a license as a street artist and started selling my furniture on the streets of Berkeley, California. This led to showing in local galleries and craft shows. Later, I worked at various jobs including patternmaker, cabinetmaker, finish carpenter, general contractor, boatbuilder and furniture maker.
People often speak of finding your passion but I believe if you’re lucky, passion finds you. After all these years, I think my passion has evolved into a lifestyle and it is still fun to make stuff. I have always been interested in innovation and these days I’m exploring new techniques using carbon fiber and other non-traditional materials. Presently, my time is divided between teaching furniture building at my woodworking school in Grass Valley, California. and building and designing custom furniture.
I have been fortunate to have spent over fifty years working as a woodworker. It sounds like a long time but the learning never stops and my enthusiasm and curiosity remain as high as ever. I would like to share a few thoughts about my craft.
There’s no shortcut here-mastering a skill set requires thousands of hours of work. Study and instruction can help but, in the end, you have to do it with the tool in your hand. Attitude is key - mistakes are made but don't let it stop you. Do it over or do it differently until you get it right.
People often think it’s important to distinguish between the craftsman and the artist. To me the label is not important. But I will say, though I’ve known some very talented eight-year-old artists, I’ve never known an eight-year-old craftsman.
You can choose to do one thing over and over and become very proficient. Or you can choose a less certain path, one of diversity and learn a variety of skills that complement and enhance each other. By chance or by choice, I choose the latter.
I’ve been fortunate to find work as a cabinetmaker, carpenter, patternmaker, contractor, boatbuilder, furniture maker and teacher. All of these skills overlap and provide solutions not found within the narrow skill set of each specialty.
Woodworkers are often held captive to the past. They often spend countless hours trying to replicate something only because it was done in a time we romanticize about. It is good to study and practice the skills and techniques of the past but I believe we should always search for and embrace new methods and materials that expand our craft. My search to solve design problems has led me to experiment with many modern materials and carbon fiber in particular. It’s compatibility and superior strength has led me to create designs not previously possible using traditional methods.
The gift of the artist is to see what is already there. The job of the craftsman is to unlock this beauty and to create a piece that compliments the natural wonder of the wood. We should never forget the time and difficulty that went into creating this incredible material. Often our best material is a result of a harsh, difficult struggle to survive.
As a craftsman working with this beautiful material, I am very aware and mindful of its increased scarcity. My design inspiration comes from nature’s flowing curves and the natural aesthetic of the wood itself.
Furniture must be functional and comfortable and, if possible, sensual. Sculptural furniture invites you to touch and feel the smooth lines and warmth of the wood.