It seems appropriate to begin these posts with an acknowledgment to one of the nation’s creative greats, the woodworker Sam Maloof.
Maloof died last month at the age of 93 at his home in Alta Loma California.
A designer, teacher, craftsman and inspiration for countless contemporaries, Maloof himself always preferred the direct and simple description “woodworker.”
Just a glance at one of his signature creations, his famous rocking chairs, shows the contemporary expression he gave to his age old profession.
The lines are fluid, a delight to the eye. The first impulse on seeing one of these pieces is to touch it, to caress the sensual shape of its arms. The warm hues of the natural wood – walnut was his favorite – he never used stains – give depth and complexity to the work. Instead of clever techniques to hide how pieces are joined, he used open joinery to reveal how each piece fits to the other to form the whole.
Maloof was energetic, his movements quick, focused and sure. Working with no more than three assistants, he’d create perhaps 100 pieces in a year, hardly the output that a modest production shop reaches in a week.
But that was part of the point. Maloof was passionate about the quality and beauty of his woodworking craftsmanship. Each piece was an expression of the application of hand and mind to nature’s simple gift of raw timber to create something of use and beauty. His dedication to that ethic was forged by years of persistence and hardly being able to make ends meet, long before his work easily fetched $20,000 a piece.
So Sam Maloof is to be celebrated. His was a life of giving new life to the oldest of traditions, to the finest of values.
For more, check out a YouTube interview he did some years ago. It’s worth the watch.