Josh Finn’s walnut Ellman reclining chair and ottoman
One weekend last fall, we had friends visiting for a bit of revelry and stopped at an exhibit in Stone Ridge mounted by The Hudson Valley Furniture Makers — a group with a self-explanatory name. My spouse has been known to bang out a table or a cupboard when the mood strikes; our barn is full of scary-looking saws and other woodworking equipment. Our friend Joe is a talented weekend furniture maker, too, while his wife and I are avid nesters and browsers extraordinaire. What better way to pass a quiet hour or two after lunch? (OK, so we don’t revel like we used to in our younger days.)
Anyway, it turned out the furniture was of an unexpectedly high quality, both in workmanship and design. I don’t know why I was so surprised — you can’t throw a hammer without hitting an artist or craftsman in the Valley. But many of these pieces were really one-of-a-kind heirlooms in the making. It turns out that many furniture makers began as sculptors, and those that didn’t probably would have if they hadn’t discovered the joys of joinery first. We wives aahed and admired, while the guys walked around peering at dovetails and such, and oohing (in a very masculine way, of course) over technical expertise, perfect finishes, and the time evidently invested in each piece.
Here it is, a few months later, and I just finished up a story for the July issue of Hudson Valley magazine featuring six furniture makers (one of whom isn’t yet a member of the group mentioned above). Narrowing the choice to six was difficult, and I want to stress that those who made the final cut were picked only because each one’s work is distinct from the others. So here are a couple more that are equally talented:
Kieran Kinsella’s cherry “Bubbles” seat
Finn has had his own woodworking biz for the past 15 years, and claims to have been working with wood for 25 years altogether, although he doesn’t look old enough. He does a mix of freestanding furniture, built-ins, cabinetry, and all sorts of handsome architectural work, like paneled doors and fabulous staircases. He can also build you a boat, if you’d like.
Inspired by Brancusi and the mid-century modern furniture he grew up with, Poux (he pronounces the “x”) makes streamlined contemporary pieces using hardwoods, stainless steel and concrete. Eleven years ago, he debuted his first line of small tables and stools at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in Manhattan and got the critics all excited.
A lot of woodworkers cite Arts & Crafts or Asian influences, and both are evident in Andrew Hunter’s work. One of his armoires is a such a lovely marriage of the two, it’s almost too beautiful to clutter up with stuff. You just want to open the doors and look.
For something different, check out the distinctive stools, tables and whatever-they-are pieces by Kieran Kinsella. They’re wonderful shapes and all hand-carved from a single piece of salvaged wood.
There are many, many others. Check www.hvfurnituremakers.com for a few more names, or check our Resource Guide here. We are rich in artisans!