Sunday, October 19, 2008

Some of my favorite woodworkers

One of my favorite cities in the US is Philadelphia, mostly because it is home to the Philadelphia Furniture and Furnishings Show every spring.

Though the venue has changed, and the list of exhibitors is never the same, the show offers a consistently amazing array of woodworkers. I'm not 100% sure about this, but I think the show has also morphed into primarily a furniture show, rather than including things like lighting, fabrics (rugs, pillows and quilts), metal smiths, home accessories and more.

If that's true, it's a shame.

When I started attending the show around the mid-90's, it was held at the convention center, just a short walk from the Liberty Bell
and across the street from the Reading Terminal Market. Honestly, I'd visit Philadelphia just to go to this market, it's incredible.

Did you know the Liberty Bell cracked the very first time it was rung? If you're a geek like me, check out that link and read some more trivia about the bell. Think of all the bar bets you'll be able to win.

To round out my time in Philly and turn it into a truly decadent weekend, I'd stay at the Marriott there by the market, so that renting a car wasn't necessary. I don't have a lot to compare it to, but the public transportation in Philadelphia was so user friendly, I could land at the airport, walk to a train station, and take a short train ride to the convention center. My hotel was right there, so it was about as convenient as could be. Sweet. Since the venue has changed, I'm not sure about the accessibility to the new location. Regardless, it's an easy city to navigate, and full of artists.

Whenever I'd return home, I'd have a huge stack of brochures and color postcards from all the artists I'd met. Multiply that by the six or eight or ten years I attended the show - that's a buttload of information!

So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite artists that I'd met through the years. Artists are a funny bunch - some were friendly and open to discussing not only their work, but their "story" too - how they came to be a woodworker, or what their philosophy of woodworking was about. Others were more private, almost paranoid, as if sharing their thoughts would somehow allow someone to "steal" their designs. I've never understood that.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite woodworkers. Enjoy.

John Reed Fox

John's work remains one of my favorite memories of the PFFS. His pieces look quite simple, but they're incredibly dignified and refined, with solid design and workmanship.

Years ago, I made a small wall cabinet that had sides with sculpted curves, much like the curves that John uses in the tops of his pieces. Those curves are much more difficult to make than they look. MUCH more.

Machining those curves once was enough for me. Combine that with his choice of woods, and his Asian influence, and... well, I'd welcome one of his pieces in my home any day.

Rachel's work has also been a favorite of mine for years. In fact, above my desk, I have a bulletin board with a few color postcards pinned to it, and one of Rachel's postcards is hanging here. The card is eight years old, which shows you how much I love the piece that's on it.

Here it is, postmark and all...

There's a simplicity and refinement to her work that I just love, not to mention that graphic nature of her designs.
And her use of milk paint is extraordinary. Rachel is currently president of the board of trustees of The Furniture Society.

After I requested permission to use these images, Rachel wrote to say that between her duties with the Furniture Society and her two small children, she's not building much furniture these days. I don't know about you, but I look forward to the day when she returns to it.

David Laro

There is a playfulness in David's work that I admire. He takes everyday objects, like a pair of scissors, a can of sardines, a wrench, or spaghetti twirled around a fork, and turns them into pieces of furniture.

His pieces are very well made, and any piece would be great accent in a home.
I love his sense of whimsy.

Del Guidice, Mark

Mark's work combines everything I love in a piece of furniture - great use of color and imagery, excellent craftsmanship, and a whimsical nature that belies the materials used. His work is so visually captivating that when I used to visit his booth, I would stay for hours, looking at every single carving. He probably thought I was a stalker.

By carving onto his pieces using a variety of symbols (including Morse code, heiroglyphics, and more), Mark tells us stories within each piece. His work represents the perfect justification for buying a custom built piece of furniture - his pieces are truly one of a kind.

Mark's website wouldn't allow me to send him an e-mail, so that I could get permission to put a few of his pieces here. But I highly suggest you check it out. When I win the lottery someday, I will commission a headboard like the one on his home page.

In a word - GORGEOUS.

Also, check out this video on Mark's work.

And finally...Phil was the only person who didn't answer my request to post some of his images here. But if I left him off this list, I'd be omitting one of the work of one of the most incredible woodworkers I've ever seen. Make sure you click on his name and check out his site.

Imagine a box, small enough to hold in your hand, but as precious as a piece of jewelry. Phil's boxes are light-years ahead of any boxes you will ever see.

(Read that sentence three time.)

His craftsmanship is incredible, with intricate detail and intelligent use of materials. Even the pictures on his website don't do them justice, they're best seen in a setting where you can see one after the other after the other. His boxes make most box-makers look like regular hobbyists - and that's not a slight on the rest of us woodworkers, it's a tribute to the work he produces.

Hope you've enjoyed my list.

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