What started it all was, I needed a bookshelf for an apartment. It didn’t exist. What did was crap, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. I didn’t know why it was crap and I didn’t know anything about what made it crap, but I decided to make it myself.
I do that: I get this feeling that something isn’t right and I do it differently. I struggle and fail and then…
Let me back up. I was in school for fashion design; don’t ask me why. It wasn’t working out, so I took a class in photography. I dug it. I was good. My professor told me to keep doing fashion design, so I switched my major to photography. I transferred to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. I built picture frames for my shows. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I kept it simple as I figured it out. I made some more things because I couldn’t bring myself to buy the crap that was available to me. Photography teaches you how to see what you’re looking at. I had some brilliant teachers. What I learned about light, framing, subject, and guiding the viewer through an image was both eye-opening and life-changing. I began to see why the crap was crap. And I took more photos and built more things that were basic and simple, but at least not crap.
Life happened, as it does, and I began talking with a high school friend about starting a boat building school. This idea wasn’t as out there as the idea of trying fashion design. I had grown up sailing and knew what the pointy end of a boat was called. Still do, in fact, though I don’t get on them as much. I started a nonprofit boat building school called Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory that is still doing awesome stuff down in Philadelphia. I learned how to build boats with my nose in a book and lots of patient students asking questions. Boats are pretty—wooden boats especially. They also teach you a lot about form, elegance, and making a series of curves all look right and fit well together. I built a lot of boats and actually started to become a woodworker. And I was beginning to form an opinion about what was good and what was moving, touching and well crafted. The idea of what was crap and what wasn’t began to fall away, and I began to feel confident as a woodworker and as an artist.
At some point, Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory stopped feeling like my project anymore, and I met the woman of my dreams. Eventually we moved to our current home in western Massachusetts and I decided to leave boats to boat builders and get back to furniture. It took a long time, but there was a lot I needed to see before committing myself.
My shop is in Easthampton, Massachusetts, where I build the furniture of my dreams and then go home to the woman of my dreams, and where we raise our son. Life is good and crap-free.