Erin: What are you curious about?
Robert: I’m curious about self-sufficiency, homesteading, coming into contact with the natural world the way people might have a century or two ago. Also about meditation, mystics, and traditional healing arts – other worldviews that are drastically different from my own. These are all things I know almost nothing about, but have left me deeply challenged when I’ve come into contact with them.
Erin: Describe your work and describe your process.
Robert: I learned to build furniture the old fashioned way, first with chisels, saws, and hand planes. The school I attended in Maine affirmed the importance of integrity in construction. Our teachers were also modern in their technique, and the best ones taught you to be practical, balancing handwork with what a machine can do better and often more precisely. I enjoy working in that space, and try to be open to many different methods and strategies for building. I like custom work because the project dictates the appropriate process. I hope that my work shows attention to detail and craftsmanship and the warmth of being individually made.
Erin: You come from a professional photography background. How did you make the shift into woodworking?
Robert: Woodworking was reactionary when I started 5 years ago. The reality of making a living as a photographer caused my personal work to suffer, so I turned to building furniture as a hobby. It soon became a passion and I couldn’t stop. Looking back, the two disciplines aren’t so dissimilar, both allowing for quiet and personal expression. I always enjoyed analog black-and-white printing in the darkroom. I think the tactile and strategic nature of that process is very akin to what I love about woodworking. I like physical outcomes, and there is a deep satisfaction that comes from the slow accumulation of technique and expertise. You can be taught woodworking, but it doesn’t retain
Erin: Your work is clean and sculptural, but with a strong point of view. How do you celebrate the wood and eliminate excess?
Robert: Paring down to only the essential elements is the hardest part of design, which doesn’t always come naturally to me. I find it helpful to give myself limitations. Boundaries - in material, function, joinery, or aesthetics - can help to rein in the scope of a piece. Since furniture making is usually a battle against time, I find the need to be focused, maybe sometimes too much so. In an ideal world I could build freely and let stream of consciousness take over.
Lately, my new designs have just been things that I myself would like to own. When I look at the history of furniture, the pieces that endure and that we call ‘classics’ seem to have a very direct and strong authorship, without feeling overly adorned or affected. That’s what I’d like to aim for.