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An arts- and craftsman
Adam Wall has a thing for craftsmanship.
His mentor, James Krenov, always said you should be able to look at a piece of furniture from any angle and see the care someone took in putting it together.
Pull out a drawer and put your Target-bought desk to that test.
So, Wall's collection of hand-crafted tables, boxes and bowls are as much about form as function. It's the puzzle of woodworking, he says. How can he use scale, joinery and finish to draw out the beauty of the medium, while making sure the piece fulfills its need? After all, what good is a table that can't hold weight?
Krenov also said much of our life is spent buying and discarding crap. That's a paraphrase of course, but the sentiment is there. And while IKEA and the like have their place in the modern marketplace — just think how many woodworkers it would take to keep those 20-somethings in bookshelves and bed frames — there is something to the permanence of a hand-crafted piece of furniture.
These things become heirlooms, Wall says.
Kitchen tables are a good example. They get handed down from parents, grandparents even, and while they may have some dings, a couple of knicks in the wood or rings from some kid who forgot to use a coaster, those things don't compromise the quality of the piece.
“It's not going to fall apart if you move it three times.”
Wall is inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, which held a romantic idealization of the craftsman taking pride in his personal handiwork. One master craftsman would create all the parts of a piece and then assemble and finish it.
Later, those principals were shared by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, who created virtually every detail of both the external design and the internal fixtures of a house — including the furniture, windows and doors. It is the full integration of art and design, form and function, Wall says.
It makes sense he looks for that integration in lumber. Wall has a history with wood. Both of his grandfathers were woodworkers. His father and uncle owned a custom cabinet shop in Madera where he pushed around a broom during the summers as a child.
So, he knows his maple and mahoganies.
But he also likes using unexpected materials, what he calls the neglected woods. He'll use paint-grade wood to create a table. “People have seem it. It's the face frame on their kitchen cabinets and it's painted white.”
And while creates his pieces with craftsmanship in mind, it's not what he has at home. It's a running joke for furniture and cabinet makers. You make the good stuff for other people.
“I have crap furniture,” he says.