Furniture masters’ exhibit pays tribute to mentor, educator
The notion of having an idea, or just a thought blowing from one hemisphere to another, and then turning that into something tangible with his own two hands drew cabinetmaker Timothy Coleman to woodwork. But it wasn’t until he met James Krenov that he learned how to create the things he loved and turn that into a profession.
In the first exhibition in its “Schools of Thought Series,” the New Hampshire Furniture Masters explore the role of education by focusing on the graduates of the College of the Redwoods. Located in California, the college was a program developed by Krenov, a master cabinetmaker who died in 2009. It’s recognized as one of the premier cabinetmaking programs in the country, emphasizing technical skill and quality construction techniques.
The New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association was founded more than a decade ago and includes more than two dozen craftsmen from across New Hampshire, as well as Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, who create studio furniture in an array of styles including period, early American, Shaker, neoclassical, traditional and contemporary.
The intention of the series is to showcase the role of education in shaping a maker’s work, said woodworker Ted Blachly, who helped organize the show.
The exhibit includes works by current furniture masters John Cameron, Coleman and Sam Norris as well as works by invitee Brian Newell of Fort Bragg, Calif. The show will be on view at the furniture masters’ gallery in Concord from tomorrow through May 30.
“The work on exhibit shows a love of craft and a desire to work without compromise, both qualities that are fostered at the College of the Redwoods,” Norris said.
Krenov’s program has proved a unique voice in the furniture world. Coleman attended an early presentation with Krenov before discovering and attending the College of Redwoods.
“I had never seen any examples of people making a living from furniture making,” Coleman said. “So when I heard (Krenov) speak, I thought he was speaking for the profession. . . . But his approach, his voice, was special.”
Krenov was a big believer in a philosophy that centered on a “reverence for the material with which he worked and an insistence on clean, harmonious design,” according to the group. An emphasis on the natural beauty of the wood and the skills needed to do it justice are hallmarks of College of the Redwoods graduates.
Norris said he hoped that visitors will take away a new appreciation for detail when they come to see the exhibit. For his part, he’s included a liquor cabinet in the show. He described it as a contemporary take on a classic Chinese form.
“I left out the embellishments often found in Chinese furniture, such as pierced carving, in favor of textured surfaces that brings depth to the flat panels of the doors and cabinet sides,” he said of the piece, which uses Madrone, a type of wood from the Pacific Coast.
Text panels will accompany the pieces, with the artists personally defining the school and their educational experience there, Blachly said. They were also asked to comment on how that education is reflected in the pieces they have in the exhibit.
“Everyone who went there was first drawn to James Krenov’s writing, and that self-selected a mindset interested in a philosophical lifestyle as well as the finer points of craftsmanship,” Cameron said. “As each student became further immersed in this focused meditation called fine furniture making, it created an atmosphere that I have never seen before or since. We strove to do the very best work just to honor the school and its legacy. There were no time constraints; only quality was paramount. Efficiency was left for you to figure out later, if at all.”
The Furniture Masters’ Gallery is located at 49 S. Main St. in Concord. An opening reception will be held April 4 from 5 to 7 p.m.
For information on the association or individual masters, visit furnituremasters.org.