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Wood Stories Newsletter
Autumn 2023

The Arts & Crafts [fair] Issue

Thanks to all who came out to visit me at the Ann Arbor Art Fair last July.  I had a wonderful location, the weather was perfect (except for the obligatory Art Fair hailstorm which always shows up), and hundreds of friends – new and old – stopped by to say hi and see my work.  If you’ve worked with me in the past, you will know that investing in fine-art custom furniture can be a major decision and unlikely to be an impulse buy at the fair.  So, I was overjoyed to have received two big commissions and many, many leads. 

While I’m on the subject, can I remind you that my very best work is not a transaction with the customer, but an artistic collaboration with you the client.  Often these pieces have long gestation periods which gives us time to explore, test, and challenge each other before we arrive on a design that is truly beautiful and personal to you.  I love that process, and when I say there is no obligation, I mean exactly that.  If our conversations don’t develop into a piece for you, the ideas they foster could influence future pieces for someone else.

Let’s talk!

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Revisiting the Arts & Crafts Style

Custom cabinetmakers love to build Arts & Crafts style furniture.  A reaction against the overly ornate factory work of the newly mechanized Victorian era, the Arts & Crafts movement celebrated classical proportion, traditional techniques, natural hardwoods, and the humble, honest craftsman working happily in his shop.  It was all about us!

For 20 years, I lived and taught in the Northwest of England – the spiritual home of the Arts & Crafts movement – where my students and I designed and built lots of furniture in that style.  Now, although my work looks very different, I’d like to believe that I still adhere to these principles of proportion and truth to materials and techniques. 


A quintessentially Arts & Crafts dresser by Arthur Lasenby Liberty c. 1900

Recently, I was presented with a design problem whose solution begged to be a traditional Arts & Crafts piece: My client wanted a side table with drawers that could conceal laptops and chargers.  She also owns a beautiful Art Nouveau vase that I think would look great on an A&C base.  (Nouveau on Nouveau can sometimes be too much.) 


Table by CFA Voysey



To my taste, most of the Arts & Crafts furniture produced in England and America can look heavy and rustic, but two British designers added a lightness to the style:  C.F.A. Voysey and Charles Rennie Macintosh.  In America, Charles Limbert was heavily influenced by their work (and the work being built on the continent at the time).  This piece is an adaptation of Limbert’s serving table.


Vase by Stephanie Young

Argyle Chair

by Charles Rennie Macintosh



A Testimonial: More Arts & Crafts

   ...and a piano bar

I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to work with Walt on three pieces:  the front door for my 1920s home, the dining table for a rustic cabin in the woods, and a (literal!) piano bar.  After surveying each setting, Walt gently coaxed my vision of its role in my life.  As each piece came to life, we continued the conversation, considering options for particular details.  Walt’s technical skill is evident in the sturdy front door and beautifully crafted trestle table; his artist eyes converted an obsolete baby grand piano into an inviting home bar, complete with wine glass racks and shelves, each fashioned from reclaimed piano components!  Years later, each piece exudes a distinct history, character, and warmth.  They make a house a home.


Michele Swanson

Michele's door.jpg
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