Good Karma Cabinet

Telling the story of the Good Karma Cabinet, which sold earlier this year:

This mahogany cabinet combines antique curved glass with a thoroughly contemporary design:  all four sides of the cabinet have an irregular natural edge, with the frames for the curved glass nestled within this enclosure.  The geometric regularity of the front elements is fitted to the natural edges in much the same way that a house is fitted to the shape of the landscape.

The curved glass was salvaged from a display cabinet that had been abandoned outdoors.  The second photo shows the remains of the original cabinet, with its symmetrical placement of the two curved windows.  This is a familiar design popular about a hundred years ago, at the height of the Arts & Crafts movement.  The old cabinet had a glass door panel and a back mirror, as well, both of which found their way into the new piece.


The new piece aims for a lighter and dynamic touch, combining a bold modern line with the natural edges, while the wavy imperfections of the old glass provide a series of gentle surprises.

Several design constraints arose from the basic concept of accommodating the old glass pieces in this particular cabinet, and the resulting solutions add a measure of charm to the piece.  For example, finding a way to support the right-front shelf corner led to an interesting threaded-rod solution, just visible in the picture.

So the old glass was reborn in our new cabinet, perhaps by virtue of good karma accrued during its long previous life.

River Art Design

Here is a draft design for a piece of riverside art, to be placed on public land near the Napa River in the City of Napa.  The project is financially supported by a grant from Arts Council Napa Valley, with additional labor donated by the artist and by Friends of the Napa River.

The design is illustrated by a wooden model shown in the first photo.  The basic idea is first to flatten a log on two opposing faces, making a kind of bench;  and then to cut the whole into angled segments and reassemble them into what you might call a segmented serpentine bench.  The bench is designed to mimic gently the shape of the land surface where it is placed;  the heights of individual segments vary, as do the angles between the segments in plan view.

There will be willows or other native plants at various locations on the uphill side and the ends, incorporating the installation into the natural scene.

The piece is conceived as a conscious response to the complex river environment, of which the log is a kind of emblem.  The log should look like something that belongs there.  At the same time, however, the artist’s interventions are unmistakable – the flat surfaces of varying height, and the angled joints between segments.  These elements remind us that humans are active in the watershed, for good or ill.

This bench should be made out of a single log.  The second photo shows a locally salvaged redwood log – it’s the one marked with blue paint – that is about 30 inches in diameter and 16 feet long.  The log is available for the project thanks to the good offices of the Napa County Flood District, and to the generosity of Pacific Tree Care in Calistoga for donating the log.

The artist’s intention is to construct the piece in such manner that natural processes of decay are minimized.  The candidate log is redwood, which has very decay resistant heartwood, and the finished piece will be all heartwood except for a bit on the rounded sides.  In addition, it will be important to install the piece in a manner that discourages water from puddling on or around it, while securely pinning the segments together.  To discourage the log segments from splitting open on the top or sides, each segment will have a relief cut on the bottom face running with the grain.

Arts Council Napa Valley Awards Grant for Napa River Art

In partnership with Friends of the Napa River, Robert Zlomke has received a grant from Arts Council Napa Valley to create a piece of riverside art.  The project will use large woody debris from the river to create a sculpture at the river’s edge celebrating the river and our connection to it.

“We think the time is right to call everyone’s attention to our relationship with the river that makes downtown Napa possible,” said furniture maker and wood artist Robert Zlomke.  “This piece will be about our sense of place in a complex river environment.”

With the support of staff of the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, we are now busy locating material.  Friends of the River and the artist will fine-tune the  design this spring and explore locations with the City of Napa.  We hope to install the project by the end of the year.


for more information: 

Friends of the Napa River                             707-254-8520

Robert Zlomke                         707-688-7096