The rain prevented me from carting my laptop home from work on Friday seeing that I walk most of the way. When I woke up this morning with my coffee I felt like writing. All of my note pads are full, and I was without my computer. Then I remembered my old laptop that I had stashed away in the top drawer of a military surgeons cabinet. I cleared aside the random batteries and busted headphone collection. I laughed to myself as I picked it up and felt the weight. The hinges creaked as opened it. I powered it on and went to grab more coffee. Thirteen minutes later it was finished booting up. Instead of tucking into my writing I was sidetracked looking through all of my old files. Pictures and projects of what seems like another life. It made for a really wonderful morning.
Reminiscing on where I was just five years ago got me thinking about much more. Where I came from. Where I had been. All of the things that have driven my design style. I can trace it back to my early childhood. When I was six I would come home from Westwood Elementary to a ten by ten room in my father's shop. It was great! I had my Legos, Lincoln logs, plenty of art supplies and drawing paper, and later an Atari. My siblings and I would play for the remaining work day. So many great games were made up behind that pocket door. One of our favorite games was to collect doodle bugs from the garden outside and race them in mazes made from legos. I loved when my dad would make his own paste wax. It would always bring me out of that little room. On an old single burner he would place a large Folgers coffee can. In the can he would put chunks of carnauba, candela, and bee's wax. He would always let me smell each one before placing it in the can. They were all so distinctive and comforting. When the heat got to them they took on a completely different smell. He always smelled like this. A combination of sawdust, wax, and perspiration. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. It was lessons like this that got me interested in furniture.
As the years went on we moved several times within the same business complex. Getting bigger each time, But there was always a small room with a pocket door. My dad brought my grandfather from England to work with him. He was a product of the Queen's Navy. The weathered green tattoos on his arms proved it. After the Navy he moved the family to Zambia. Where he taught wood technology at the local college. He ran a furniture factory and taught the locals how to produce beautiful furniture on a factory scale for export. So this was the experience that he expounded upon. There were several great minds that worked along side my father. Knowledge of their craft ebbing and flowing into one another. My fathers business was always split between producing custom furniture and antique restoration. There was a venture called Buttonwood. Today we would call it a brand. Where my father and grandfather would produce beautiful hand crafted furniture almost always out of solid cherry wood. It was a lot of fun to watch them on the machines. Even though it was dangerous and I wasn't supposed to.
I have to say though it was the other side of the business that caught my attention the most. The chemistry involved in restoration and conservation made my dad seem like some sort of wizard or alchemist. It wasn't just about the amounts of each ingredient he would use to make his potions. It was how he mixed them and even more so, his technique in applying them. He would do certain things the same way they've been done for hundreds of years. But he was always experimenting with new processes. I remember when I was about ten he purchased a new piece of equipment for his shop. Not a new lathe or a sander. It was a baby pool. He filled this baby pool with a clear liquid which I believe was naphtha on which he suspended different colors of paint then swirled them together. He then dipped a piece of wood into the pool. As he pulled it back up he revealed that he had turned wood into marble. Like I said... Alchemist. I know what some of you are thinking. This is pretty standard stuff. But to a ten year old boy... it was magic.
Even though my father referred to himself as a jack of all trades, and a master of none. He was indeed a master. I have seen him will a table top to french polish itself. Okay maybe that didn't happen. But he could get it done in 30 minutes. That is including the time it took to prepare the tampon. I'm not sure what was better. To stand back and appreciate the finished work? Or when the piece first comes in the door. As I got into the business myself I think this became my favorite part. The business of fine furniture restoration is something special. A joint stool, a demilune, a chifferobe. Clients would drive up with something in the back of their vehicle. The back would open, and there it was. The next thing to discover. What was it, where was it from, what is it made of, how is it made, what is the finish? Then, how is it damaged? How can I repair it? Every time a sensory overload. Pick it up, put it down, crawl underneath it looking for answers to all of your questions. Eww a spider sack. Okay calm down. I can't work on this one yet. I have too many others before it. But I will. I will get to it, and work my magic. I was given this power by my Father to save the history of the human race. I was the keeper of time. I worked very hard long hours to return beauty to the utilitarian art of yore.
It was furniture. It was utilitarian. It was made to serve a purpose. It was skillfully engineer in the way that it's maker thought was best. It was creative, honest, and beautiful in its own way. No piece ever the same. You know Jesus was a carpenter? But we won't get into that. Separation of church and... well my blog. My respect and appreciation for furniture grew more every day.
So that was it. That is when my love and fascination of furniture shifted. It went from journeyman sorcerer to creator. I wanted to be the maker who I had come to respect so much. I took what I had learned from countless surgeries on fine antiques to develop my own brand. Everything I made was some combination of modern style using old techniques. It's this innocence and simplicity that I will return to some day. Perhaps when I retire. But hopefully before that. Don't get me wrong. I love what I'm doing now. Working in NYC along side designers like Anda Andre, Meyer/Davis, Jeffery Beers, and the crew at WeWorks to develop some amazing never been seen before furniture designs for high end residency and hotels. I have so many designs that I would love to bring to life just for me. I will keep you posted.
For now I'm going to close this giant brick of a computer. Get some more coffee, and enjoy this beautiful Saturday in Brooklyn. I hope this inspires you to look back to what you are passionate about.