I studied furniture design at Virginia Commonwealth University under Joe Distefano and Alphonse Mattia. I have taken short courses at Penland School of Crafts, and a week long course at Beria College with Sam Maloof. I was fortunate to attend workshops with James Krenov and Wendell Castle. I had occasion to meet George Nakashima and spent an afternoon touring his Hew Hope compound.
Like many new designers, some of my early work clearly paid homage to these luminaries. When post modernism became popular, I experimented with work influenced by that movement. As I matured, I came to believe that there was no need to “reproduce” the styles of famous designers. I could never make a “Castle” that would hold up to or add to what Wendell Castle had already done.
Now when I go to craft or furniture shows, I am struck with the number of ubiquitous butterfly joints I see crafted into work that references Nakashima. Maloof inspired rockers, art deco and nouveau, arts and crafts and mid century modern all have a presence. These styles are all iconic and well known and received by the consumer. Since we are in business to sell furniture this is probably a smart approach to contemporary furniture design.
That said, I am drawn to work that is not so obvious in its origins. This statement could also describe my approach to furniture design. In Wendell Castle’s early organic work, he developed his forms from nature. He sculpted them from stacked volumes of solid wood that formed the structure of the pieces. While natural motifs have been prevalent in furniture for centuries, they were reserved for decorative elements. Castle was revolutionary in that his natural forms were structural. It is this approach to design that intrigues me. Over the years I have drawn from images from fine art, psychology, mythology, nature and industrial design. These elements appear in my work as both decoration and structure elements. My attempt is to connect with people at a more subliminal level by trying to execute work that is fresh with few obvious references to earlier iconic styles. While this is a risk from a marketing standpoint, it keeps life interesting.
PARTIAL PUBLICATION LIST
- Design Books, published by Fine Woodworking Magazine
- Southern Living Magazine
- U.S. Air Inflight Magazine
- Metropolis, New York’s Architectural and Design Magazine
- Inform, Architecture*Design*The Arts, magazine of the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects
- American Craft, publication of the American Craft Council
Tom at Work