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Friday, March 4, 2011

Hide Chair And Ottoman

Oregon Walnut and Cowhide, 10 1/2" tall

This is little set I made for an auction, "The Chair Affair", a yearly event at the Community Warehouse in Portland. The proceeds go to help the needy. A lot of needy folks around these days so thought it a good cause to give my time to.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I have just started a new blog that is focusing on my fine art work. It has become apparent that I needed to seperate my personas in order to make things less confusing. If you want to find about me as a furniture designer and artist stay here and browse. But if you are interested in my other work that has been my focus for the last 4 years for to:

Here's an example of one of my drawings. At the blog site you will find a lot of my pieces and some writings about what I am doing. This is a life sized drawing at 60" tall to give you some idea of the size I am working.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Other Arbus pieces

I thought you might find it interesting to include some other pieces of furniture Andre Arbus designed and built. This is not my work of course, but as you see from my interpretation of the console in the previous post, I can build these pieces if asked, and can modify wood selection, color, size, and function to your needs.

An Interpretation of An Andres Arbus Cabinet

I find this console I recently made particularly poignant today with so much media hoopla about Modern furniture. Go to any design blog, most chic-chic design resources for current styles and trends and you can't avoid being inundated with what is called "Modernism". But Modernism in its historical sense was more encompassing than current trends and tastes.

MODERNE, is another title for Mid Century design. I'm not going to bore you with an historical treatise, but if you do have interest what you may find is quite a broad range of styles and materials far removed from what is currently being made today. Yes, there is a 'hard edge' 'squared off and simple' aspect of that period. But if one were to follow a timeline of the development of European furniture design (and American to some degree) beginning in the 1920's and carry through into the 1950's, one would watch 'the curve' evolve into a crisp, but graceful 'hard line' of focus and intention. Art Deco is a familiar era within this period where we think of beautiful exotic veneers and mixed rich color and materials that included gilding, cast bronze epaulletes and decoration. But with a little deeper dig you might realize that, as we moved into the 40's and early 50's, that Elegant Design was not centered around Post War industrial production styles that have so heavily consumed current taste today.

During that transition of curve to hard line you will find Andre Arbus designing some extraordinary furniture. He was a French Beaux Arts ebeniste, bringing all of the 'tools' available from the late 19th century Art Nouveau through the period of the richness and elegance of the interiors of the Empire State Building and the preeminent ocean liners of that time. But he also carried along in his own development a softening of that design exhuberance, refining and reworking but maintaining an integrity and reverence for superb materials and technique. In my research on Andre Arbus there is never a reference to Biedermeier Design, but without a doubt I find those influences evident particularly here with this piece in its layered effect balanced by graceful curving lines.

I was asked to reinterpret one of his pieces, hold to the original design intention as close as possible, but reduce the size to fit the room and add a sculpture display area for an entry piece into a home in San Francisco. I worked with photos taken from many angles and worked very closely with his choices. We chose a Pommele Sapele veneer for the bookmatching because of its overall uniform skin like character. The original I worked from was in a mottled Bubinga veneer with a purplish cast to it. The finish was done by Rosemont Design Group, in Portland, it is full filled, high gloss, and hand polished (A big thank you to Ken Hochfeld and Dave Kaji who pulled this off for me). A very difficult finish to accomplish, but done carefully it reflects the elegance of that time period - simple, clean lines (sound familiar? but...what's different here?) with the added richness of the beautiful curve offsetting the hard edge layering that was a hallmark of Arbus design.

Here's a couple more views of the piece including the "S" curve of the front edge of the bank of drawers. The heavy bend at the bottom dies into an exaggerated and unique base creating a pedestal effect which elevates this from a mere piece of furniture into something more akin to art in design. At the top is a subtle 'tweak' or reverse curve which begins an overall seemingly out of balance cant, tipping the piece forward, but finds itself resolved at the lower section. I must admit this was a very difficult piece to make. The curved panels were difficult enough to achieve because the drawer faces had to fit precisely and bending creates issues with springback when released from its gluing form, which I had to account for and anticipate in the construction. On top of that, because drawers are engineered to move parallel to the floor, I had to hand fit each drawer box to the back curve of the drawer face as they moved from top to bottom. (A little pat on my head, thank you)

And, finally, a view of black wood inlay in the top, again simple, geometric shapes, a further counterbalance to the hard edge and square overall character of the piece. I was again assisted by David Boyd and his extraordinary ability to utilize current technology with his digital drawing and use of his CNC router. David and I have worked together many times complimenting each other to create these beautiful pieces. Once again, thank you David.

Below is the original console piece I worked from (sorry about the quality of the photo)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

she's a sassy l'il thang...

(if you click on the images it will give you a bigger view, should be able to click again for a close up)

This is little side table commission I just finished. My client contacted me and said he really liked one of my pieces but he needed something to serve a different purpose. The original piece (below) was 48" tall and was designed as a sculpture stand - well, originally it was to be a dictionary stand but I liked the base so much I needed to redesign it so it could be seen.

What was needed in this case was a side table to fit between two lounge chairs at 22" tall. So, the challenge, to bring the top down so it would accommodate easy access to a drink, and still convey the figurative nature of the original piece.

While considering the structural adjustments my mind went back to the old "Lucky Strike" cigarette ads from the 50's, with the cigarette girl with the tray giving out free samples. Both the original and this new 'lady' have a clear 'moderne' or deco styling. This proved to be the ticket for me on this project.

The base needed to provide a low center of gravity in order to keep the delicate figure from being top heavy. So I included my reference to my 'Slab' series and the Columbia Gorge columnar basalt rock formations (see my website - thematic - Slab Series). This also references many clocks, bookends, mantel sculpture pieces from the Art Deco period where a stylized figure was staged upon an angular rock formation, many times a cubist rendering or stylization. Here's a link to a website with a lot of these beautiful sculpture pieces from the Mid Century.

This is another view of the final piece showing my selection of a beautiful veneer that creates some added drama to the piece. This is what is called 'crotch cut Mahogany'.

Once again, I hope this gives you a little insight into my design process.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If Jesus Made Furniture Today...

I know, I know, I'm being a bit provocative but don't you think Jesus had a sense of humor? I do. So, try putting Him here today. Do you really think He'd be stodgey and conservative and listen to Bill O'Reilly? Give me a break, He had a job to do, He was a 'marketer' wasn't He? something to sell, so why not play to a contemporary mode of thinking? Aren't we looking for the numbers here folks? I mean Obama won.....

Soooo...Jesus was thinking how do I get to the folks who aren't already listening (you know not just 'Singing To The Choir'?, that went out in the 70's)? 'The Choir' ain't winnin' elections these days. If He hired Weiden and Kennedy they'd be sweating blue sweat or something (you know, the Nike commercials...). Here's my proposal.

Outdoor Furniture for the Masses, hell it could work in a museum looking at Monets. Yeah, yeah looks like blasphemy but I'm not (blasphlemus, that is). I'm not religious but I'm also not disrespectful either. Lot of reverence in my own way. He had options at that moment, so what if He had stopped for a Half Gallon Of Milk instead of heading straight home that day? Ever thought of that? Would the world be a different place? Forget the silver chalice they'd instead be looking for that empty milk carton all these years, but it probably got recycled.

Anyway, we're here to talk about furniture, maybe with a little sense of irony, but furniture just the same. And while we're at it don't Christians socialize? Maybe not all of them are having a cocktail while hanging out at the pool, but some of them might want to feel like they're chillin' (without blasphemy).

Take a deep breath now.............yeah, now do you feel like Jesus would be wagging his finger at you, or would St. Peter be docking you for entry into Heaven? Ok, now that you feel really brave how about this?

Jeezus, what's this guy doing? Once you get over the angst of being a Christian (notice the capitals?, your angst not mine), now we can talk about the beauty of what Jesus may have thought when He was 'working with wood'. Ergonomics is the art of being comfortable while sittin', or hangin' (and other stuff). So, in this day and age we're more soft around the edges, need a more comfortable ride. I should include a heated cross for your back to lean against. You'd still get the idea of hanging on the cross, just more current style.

In those days 'carpenters' designed and built furniture too. Those of you who do this have some appreciation for what I do as a creator of furniture, it's pretty hard to get right, takes a long time, and most who attempt it need to feel the beauty of what they have created.

The Creative Process. What is it? What makes something beautiful? Take what you have seen at my website and project the products I have created but use this unusual theme. What might you have?

This is the creative process. I have a theme. I have to turn it into a piece of furniture. I am an artist/designer, so have to be open to new themes, new thoughts, and have to be ready to come up with viable ideas on the spot. If you weren't so offended by now from reading this then you might get what I'm talking about - and maybe smile a little in spite of your personal proclivities.

That's what I do. That's what a good designer does, and artists HAVE MORE FUN. Sounds like a bumper sticker (man, I'm in trouble now).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Catchy title, huh? A little explanation is in order then I will launch into my thoughts. I know most people won't take the time to read all of this, we live in a quick sound bite society and want immediate satisfaction (they will just look at the pictures and won't know why I put them here). But for those who do stick it out I hope it gets more interesting as you read farther along.

'Evocation' is usually defined as having to do with demons and conjuring but I'm not interested in the devil or magic but find this is the word that best fits an aspect of my work, that is the work least associated with being someone who makes furniture or works with wood. I'm using this word loosely to draw forth an attitude, gesture, personality, a sense of an event in motion, with a spirit that might even include laughing out loud. The Abstract Expressionist painters did a lot of evoking with their work attempting to 'express' their intended emotions and hoping to get a rise out of the viewers. I'm using traditional materials and media (furniture) to describe my ideas, bring something to you the viewer beyond the expected functional expectations.

I'm aware that if you were to take the nonfunctional work in my portfolio at face value that it is difficult to find a thread of understanding as to what I was intending to accomplish with these pieces. So, I'm using this blog as an opportunity for you to learn a little about my creative meanderings when I'm doing this kind of work as opposed to designing a pretty piece of furniture. There is a thread, an ongoing dialog in my mind that brings up ideas for the next one in the continuation of my thinking. You may notice I'm avoiding the use of the word ART, it's one of those bastardized monikers attached to furniture in recent years that is so burdened and crusty that it makes me gag - Art Furniture - there I said it, never again if I can help it, you can find that stuff in any gift shop in any town in the US...For the sake of a more clear explanation I'm probably closer to being an artist or a sculptor, sort of, in my intention than a woodworker. But in my mind I most certainly make a distinction between this kind of work and being an Artist, I believe they are different but I can't clearly define that. I just feel it because I am also an Artist of the other type when I paint or make sculpture, and it feels different. Messy, enough said.

The Queen Anne chair. You've all seen it, it's in every furniture store, but it has an interesting history that has really been percolating below the surface for me for many years. For years I felt there was something else going on with this beautiful but overused design than just being a classy traditional chair design. I was commissioned to do a contemporary Queen Anne dining set, a version of this classic look a number of years ago (see my website under Portfolio/ Commissions/ Queen Anne Commission *, and as I worked through the weeks it became more apparent the connection between this chair design and the human body. You can track that 'cabriole leg' style back to the tombs of Egypt where it was used as either animal or human form; and find it cropping up over and over through the centuries in various versions.

This became the beginnings of a thread, the first pieces I did were the two 'Ladies" you see at the top of this post, and you can find out more about this if you watch the TV segment done on me (OPBTV Oregon ArtBeat copy and paste the url: This was a collaboration I did with some other very talented makers. But there was more to my thinking than just these two pieces. So I've included some other pics of idea sketches and a finished drawing ("Tanktop Queen") of various versions of this take on Queen Anne 'personalities'.

The full 'realization' of each of these became out of my reach as actually making these is a very serious investment of time and money. So I had to settle with making a couple to get the idea across and hopefully spark some interest in having more pieces commissioned to continue the thought. I have since sold both finished 'Ladies' and would love to make more but for now I'll try to fill out my thinking here with the blog. As I worked through the different personalities in my sketches something new began to evolve, it became a little more of an 'event' or an action than just a single finished piece, needing more than an attitude, more of a story line. Being a story teller with my work I just couldn't contain myself, it got out of control. But that's where the fun started for me. In spite of my concerted efforts these 'chairs' just wouldn't be content without going off and having experiences. Isn't it enough to just sit there and look pretty?

I went to visit a potential clients' house and walked into one of those magnificent foyers with two flights of sweeping stairs on both sides of an entry the size of my house taking you up to what most assuredly became one of MGM's sets for a movie in the 40's (at least in my fantasy) - you know, "Gone With The Wind" sort of thing? And lo and behold there was one of my chairs at the top of the stairs in utter distress, wringing with sweat, tears flowing, with no alternative to life and it's disasters but to fling itself down the stairs for one final violent end to it all (you know, goodbye cruel world?, didn't my first wife threaten me with that at the top of the stairs leading to my shop one night?). So here I am with my film crew directing this scenario, with Marcel Duchamp whispering advice in my ear, as the 'chair' tumbled and smashed it's way over and over down the stairs, and I saw her screaming, splintering into pieces until finally she rested a smashed pile of wood and mangled upholstery at the foot of the landing. Crushed, destroyed, unrecognizable, but no longer forced to face tomorrow, or having to make another meat loaf casarole with a ketchup glaze in time for him to get home from work. The pain I felt, the relief for her, as I realized her deliverance from that distress became palpable beyond description. Not exactly "Nude Descending The Staircase", but with digital overlays as she tumbled, you might get the idea.

Needless to say I was distracted and didn't get the job with my client (sure could have used the money).

Or.... I'm hurriedly rushing to an appointment in downtown Portland when I cross the street to find 'her' sitting there in her beautiful burgundy skin self on the sidewalk, all alone, waiting. Waiting for a gentleman to come to her assistance. Her handkerchief has fallen to the sidewalk, there it lay unnoticed by all those uncaring passersby. Self possessed, locked in each their own mind concerned only with their selfish needs. I mean can't ANYONE see, what's wrong with you people? How could a chair possibly retrieve her own handkerchief without the valiant assistance of a kind passerby? We live in such an insulated and selfish society, unaware of the individual needs of those around us in distress, in need of just a moments' attention, someone to care enough pick up a handkerchief for a chair in need...what's the world come to?

You may be thinking I'm on a crusade to change the selfish society we live in. Yeah, I suppose.... But I'd rather you enjoy my personal irony - I mean why does a chair need a handkerchief anyway?

Then there's the 'chair' who decides to go back to his roots and parks himself in a row next to his fellow trees at the christmas tree farm down the road from me. Feeling a little too conspicuous in his current form so dons a watch cap, a red flannel shirt, and muddy boots realizing he might not pass for a tree, because of the stain and lacquer, and instead might pass for a lumberjack (it's Oregon you know)....but I'll save that story for another day.

You never realized a chair could be so enslaved by angst, huh? I bet you won't take yours for granted ever again!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Glenn Adamson Talk

I went to Glenn Adamson's talk yesterday sponsored by The University of Oregon/Architecture and Museum Of Contemporary Craft. Adamson is a noted writer/curator from Victoria Albert Museum in London. I've heard him speak before at The Furniture Society conferences and met him briefly at one of those events, and I've enjoyed his offering for the world of creative furniture and other crafts. Yesterday's talk was more broad than specifically furniture. I wasn't particularly enlightened with the talk, he was speaking of material that is not new to my experience and I agree with his assessment of the state of the Craft 'movement', not unlike Garth Clark it's pretty dead as a movement but there will always be a need for individuals to carry on a rigorous investigation of their own thoughts and objects, and maybe the result of the Craft Movement attention it will naturally be assimilated in some form with acceptance into the broader ART context. If you'd like to listen to this talk I understand that it will be offered online and you might go the the MOCC website and check the lectures section. But I'm sharing these thoughts today as they are revisting my thoughts at my previous posting "Some Definitions".

But I was taken with the end of the talk with some picture juxtapositions of various designers with artists. The first two pics above are from Toord Boontje a wonderful designer (, an innovator of product design. This piece is a wardrobe, a piece of furniture with laser cut steel carefully enameled for color and detail and cast bronze. I have been aware and really enjoy what he has done as an industrial designer, how he has stepped away from the easy and trendy and has attempted to redefine design. Not a maker per se, although I don't know enough about his business so I'll happily stand corrected, but he finds resources/people in the industry to realize his ideas into product form for sale. So much of what the media presents to the public as 'truth', beauty, and 'current' thinking is sadly more retro from people with a profit motive, who didn't grow up with stuff my parents delivered to the landfill when I was young. Little of what is being 'created' is innovative except only in the sense that they are using new materials and processes but it's a meager effort and frustrating to me with the amazing potential available with our new technologies today- Toord Boontje is one of the few willing to take chances. Adamson's presentation yesterday gave him little credibility only by using him as a reactive counterpoint to a more conceptual/artistic offering by Yoshihiro Suda's "weeds" - the third photo above (

Suda was a discovery for me, thank you Glenn, his weeds ring my bells as an artist to be sure. His renderings are carefully and exquisitely carved out of wood and painted by hand in extraordinary detail. One can easily explain his efforts as the result of his cultural artistic history, a reverence for beauty in the simple form, very Japanese. Even at second and third glance it would be easy to place him squarely in that genre. He is, yet he isn't. His rendering of weeds and other plants would be far too subtle to allow as representative of current ART until you become aware of the context in which they are installed. You will find these delicate little plants and flowers growing out of cracks in gallery floors and walls- not in vitrines upon pedestals - as weeds tend to grow regardless of our lifelong efforts to eradicate them. A little too mundane, not quite overtly beautiful enough to fit the Japanese stereotype - a little too LA, a little too aware of what kind of impact a simple weed might have when one is exposed to it in an unorthodox context.

The chord he strikes in me is one that is always hanging around, nipping at my heels - the obvious is too easy, too much of what we are inundated with today in the media is the celebrity object. I am far more enamored with garden hoses, a popsicle stick on the side of the road, the run in a woman's stocking instead of her beautiful face, finding beauty by drawing it out of the mundane. Finding beauty in these things is part of my task, my rigorous inquiry as an artist. Of course the furniture you view at my site is clearly aware of it's own beauty or it's inherent presence - yup it's overt, it's in your face a counterpoint to simplicity. But what I'm referring to is my other personality, the painter, and other, that is going on separately from the furniture designs. I'll get to that in a future post and show you some of this work, but for now an appreciation for Yoshihiro Suda's beautiful little pieces and the wonderful designs of Toord Boontje.

Thought you might enjoy a little contrast in the thinking of creative people.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Here's a quick couple of pics of some work I did for a client last year. Might show a bit of range, give a little courage to ask for a variety of designs. The first, a cocktail table, is a copy of someone else's work, I take no credit for this pretty piece only building it. It was seen in a design showroom but was the wrong size and configuration for the need. With all due respect to the original designer, this is a very pretty piece, I normally would make an effort to do some redesigning, make it more mine but in this case it was what was desired. It is bigger than the original and uses a unique veneer and wood (Pacific Yew).

The second one comes from my Slab series, visit my website for more, and is a little different take on the theme using Vertical Grain Douglas Fir and Patinaed Steel. It's a display table for an office about 6 ft long, sits in a window overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

This is also my own photography, a first attempt at doing this for myself. I'm working on it but must humble myself to all those wonderful photographers and friends I have used over the last 30 years. They don't get credit on my website, so I'll take this opportunity to honor them here until I get a chance to do my credits properly. Here's a list, hope I haven't forgotten anyone, apologies but I'm sure I have:

Laurie Black
Harold Wood
Phil Harris
Jon Jensen
Mark Stein (who has shot the greater proportion of the work on my website)


Keeping The World A Little More Beautiful...

There was another purpose to my last posting. It so easy to be pidgeonholed, so easy for people to apply tags. It's understandable because we all need some means of reference, some way of describing something that may have had an impact on you - in my case good or bad, you decide. 

Having embarked on this mission of mine to redefine furniture for my satisfaction and hopefully for your pleasure and enjoyment, I think there have been assumptions made about what I am as a furniture designer/maker. I'm afraid it's my doing, I have devoted myself to 15 years and close to $100,000 in developing this body of work you see on my website. I redesigned my website to include mostly work that was of the provocative kind - certainly this is the work that has been the most stimulating for me and appears to have garnered the most attention. But it is most certainly not all that I do or have done for many many years. Why is this important for you to know? We're in tough times right now, work is hard to come by. No games, it's tough out there and I find myself struggling along with most creative people trying to find relevance in a world where a lot of people are just pulling in the horses and circling the wagons for a while. So I have a new mission and that is to open myself up, make myself available in more ways than those previous assumptions might allow, and keep potential customers thinking of me when there is a need for what I can do with furniture. Yup, I find myself regrouping.
Artists and arts organizations are starting to drop off like flies. Take a moment, look around you at the beautiful things you have gathered in your lives - your clothes, your furnishings, your cars, the things that stand out as important in your world, music, movies - all of this was created by creative people, people with talents and skills and a passionate commitment to making the world a little more beautiful, a little more interesting. IKEA serves a good purpose, sure, I've even bought furniture from Dania (nope, sorry can't bring myself to IKEA...they are raping our world of integrity in so many ways, but they aren't alone).
I'm hoping by diversifying my offering, maintaining the level of quality I have always committed to, that the last men (and women) standing are those making a high level beautiful work. So, lest one thinks of me solely a man of madness, a designer who disregards the practical, and a maker who doesn't have need for functionality, let me assure you I'm quite capable and willing to make a very beautiful SHAKER TABLE. Or other...