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A Natural Object

A Natural Object

The other day I wrote a description of a new piece for our current newsletter, which goes out in two days, and I find that I keep thinking about the piece.  That’s partly because it’s sitting in our living room, where I can keep an eye on it as it gradually settles in, but I […]


Hall Tables

Hall Tables

Last fall, when I was making plans for the winter, a gallery owner I’ve known a long time happened to mention something about hall tables, and for some reason the idea took root. It struck me that a simple one-drawer table at counter height, which one might place in an entry hall, is useful but […]


Proposing River Art

Proposing River Art

A while back I mentioned a letter of inquiry to an arts funding organization, which I submitted in partnership with the Friends of the Napa River organization.  We want to create riverside art out of woody debris that originated in the river system.  We were invited to submit a full proposal, and part of the […]


Taco Bench

Taco Bench

We made a bench last year, now on display at the Highlight Gallery in Mendocino, that was inspired by a chunk of cypress wood we salvaged in the fall of 2014.  I remember the day it arrived in our shop, one of several similar pieces discarded by a local mill operator.  It was quite decayed […]


Environmental Art

Environmental Art

I am working on a letter of inquiry to a San Francisco Bay Area organization that funds collaborative projects between artists and nonprofit organizations. I found out about them a couple of years ago, and an idea for a public art project has crystallized just in time to apply for this year’s round of funding. […]


Plugging a Bolt Hole

Plugging a Bolt Hole

I’m looking at a bolt hole in a piece of old growth redwood. This wood was recycled out of an old bridge somewhere in Northern California and was expensive when I bought it several years ago. The bolt hole is 3/4″ across, with the surrounding area heavily blackened from contact with damp steel. This bolt […]


Making Music and Furniture

I was talking to my brother, who is on the point of retiring from a 40-year career as an orchestral musician. He was until recently co-principal double bass with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva, but his retirement ambition is to become a street musician. He wants to trot out his old cowboy […]


Forty Years Ago, cont’d.

Forty years ago we moved into an old apartment at 520 Oakland Avenue in Oakland, one that needed a lot of work. We landed there because it was the one downstairs from our old friend Nancy, with whom we stayed after our arrival back in town, and it became available at just the right time. […]


Forty Years Ago

Forty Years Ago

Memories of the late 1970’s are rolling into my mind. Forty years ago Evelyn and I arrived back in northern California after two years in Germany, where I had taught English in a German secondary school while she studied textiles nearby. We had plans for further education and figured we would go to school part […]


Nature

Nature

I frequently make tables out of slabs of wood. When slabs are cut from a log, the long edges typically have an irregular curved shape, showing where the edge of the log was. Those irregular edges are something special, since they remind you of the living tree that the wood came from, probably the reason […]


What is Craft, Anyway?

The activity of making furniture or other useful objects of wood on a small scale, like other activities usually thought of as craft, has a strong feeling of tradition associated with it. Ever since John Ruskin, such activities have basked in an aura of pre-capitalist excellence, functioning as a kind of resistance to an alienated […]


Artist’s Statement

At the request of a reader, here is the Artist’s Statement referred to in the last post. I always start with the material. My wood comes from a variety of sources, including commercially milled hardwoods available from a regional dealer, preferably from certified sustainable sources; locally milled slabs, which are usually salvaged from urban trees; […]


Virginia Woolf and Me

Lately I have been rereading Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis, a book my daughter gave me several years ago. Its subject, the representation of reality in western literature from Homer to the twentieth century, is treated in a manner both sweeping and detailed, and although the book was written decades ago I find a breathtaking freshness in […]


A Quasi-Victorian Mantelpiece

A Quasi-Victorian Mantelpiece

When we moved to Napa in 1987, one of the friends we left behind in our old Oakland neighborhood was Eric the photographer. I guess we didn’t exactly leave him behind, because he’s been up to Napa to photograph new pieces for us; but he did continue to live in Oakland. Shortly after we moved […]


How Engineers Do Things

How Engineers Do Things

My father was an engineer, who spent most of his working career in the aerospace industry, and what he did was completely mysterious to me as a child. I knew it had to do with making rockets work and that things had to be figured out and tested, and that it all had to do […]


Gallery Talk

Gallery Talk

I was asked recently to give a gallery talk about my woodworking, and I decided to select a small number of images and organize the talk around them. Here are the eleven images I picked and roughly what I had to say about them. I usually tell people that I started woodworking in 1980, when […]


The Live Oak Tree

The Live Oak Tree

On returning from vacation in July I found a phone message from Jim Bushey, a local engineer working on a project near Napa, who wanted to show me a tree.  It was coming out to make way for a new vineyard, and he thought I might be able to use the wood.  The base of […]


George Nakashima & Paper Clips

George Nakashima & Paper Clips

On vacation in New York recently, I visited a gallery show entitled “George Nakashima:  In Conversation,” described by its organizers as a collaborative exploration of the interaction of furniture by George Nakashima with the work of several contemporary artists.  The gallery space, named UNTITLED, displayed a sampling of Nakashima’s furniture in juxtaposition with a variety […]


Sherlock Holmes in the 21st century

Sherlock Holmes in the 21st century

We have not had broadcast TV in our house for about 15 years.  We live under a hill and don’t get a TV signal, but up until 15 years ago we had cable.  Then, for some reason having to do with raising a teenager, we got rid of the cable.  We would watch movies occasionally […]


The Tabletop

The Tabletop

Evelyn and I were at a local hardwood lumber dealer’s, looking at some two-inch cherry for a dining table I was making.  Contrary to what they told me on the phone, they did not have hundreds of board feet of it, but only a hundred fifty board feet or so – not much more than […]


Wall Motto

Wall Motto

For a good while there has been a Latin quote on my workshop wall.  I’ve completely forgotten how it got there, but I do know what it means.  It says ars longa, vita nostra brevis est, literally “art is long but our life is short.”  I know that because I took Latin in high school […]


Zlomke Furniture Then and Now

Zlomke Furniture Then and Now

I own an ashtray and a yardstick, promotional products of the sort given away by small businesses when I was a boy in the 1950’s, which I acquired from a family source some time later.  They are important to me because they came from my Grandpa George’s furniture store in St. Paul, Nebraska.  The yardstick […]


Sentiment

I took some display pieces down to San Diego the other day, where their other design parent lives and works.  She is going to see if she can place them in a showroom in her market area.  This was the first time she had seen these particular pieces, if you don’t count photographs, and she […]


Art and Experience

Art and Experience

I was working on a design for a trestle table last month, trying to improve the base structurally, when before my eyes a perfectly utilitarian base changed into a pair of clown feet. I stopped working on the design, assuming that I had gone off the deep end in some way or other, and went […]