When did you start working with wood?
I started nailing chunks of wood together when I was 5 or younger. I took shop class in high-school, then when I graduated from college in 1982, I started to make furniture as a career.
Who has influenced your work?
Martin Puryear is a sculptor who often uses wood. He has developed a variety of traditional skills in order to build contemporary sculpture. His work displays mostly simple forms with fine execution.Wendell Castle is probably the main person responsible for getting furniture acceptance as fine art (not just fine craft) . Having worked in his studio, I know he has a keen eye for subtle details which make the difference between a piece being dynamic and interesting, and one that is static and stale.
Wharton Esherick was perhaps the first “studio furniture-maker”. He was a painter, print-maker, sculptor and furniture-maker, and he approached them all in the same way: making no distinction between art and craft.
Are there any influences that might come as a surprise to folks who know your work?
It may not be a surprise that studying science in college has made me look at natural forms in an analytical way.
What was the best advice you ever received that has helped you with your art?
I worked for five years for Tom Lacagnina, at Alfred University. I made some of my own work during my free time, and he was kind enough to critique it. He tends toward minimalist, form based, unadorned sculpture, and he gently urged me to remove unnecessary decoration from my furniture. I sometimes forget that it’s important to know when to stop adding to a piece.
If you could only pass along one piece of advice to a young artist, what would that be?
Whether making representational art or abstract, get the basic idea right first before diving into details.
Do you have a favorite piece of art by someone other than yourself?
The Artist’s Studio in the Afternoon Fog by Winslow Homer. It is made up of largish areas of muted color, very simple looking but everything is in place.
Nail Cabinet by Gary Knox Bennett, because one nail driven into the face of a beautifully executed rosewood cabinet caused so many stiff-minded woodworkers to freak out.
Do you listen to music when you work? If so, could you share a few titles or atists?
I always listen to music when I work. I listen to a variety of genres: world music, particularly African, modern folk, sixties, eighties new wave, recent alternative, and classical. A few favorite artists are Laurie Anderson, Bruce Cockburn, The Cocteau Twins, and Baba Maal.
My favorite book is A Reverence for Wood by Eric Sloane. He told about how early settlers relied on wood for nearly everything and so they came to know wood and its properties very well. This book was a great influence on my choice of career, and I turn back to it if I feel I need to refocus.
My favorite movie is Amelie. It’s full of saturated colors, whimsical details, and sweetness and decency.