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Integrity of Form 

Furniture created as sculpture is functional art at its best. Tweaking the traditional craft is a strong sense of design paired with the whimsy of personal expression, one that honors the materials used, which is mostly wood. The upcoming show of work by members of the Hudson Valley Furniture Makers gives us a rare opportunity to see a body of contemporary, one-of-a-kind furniture in a large, common space. This is the group’s third annual show and runs from October 8 through 11 at the High Meadow School in Stone Ridge.

There is a wide range of styles; each pushes the edge of form and function. Michael Puryear’s sense of elegance references Shaker and Scandinavian designs; the toned, balanced mix of woods and metals are thematic to furniture by Rob Hare; Johnny Poux’s solid, sleek lines dominate his work made of hardwoods, stainless steel, and concrete. The sculptural stools and side tables by Kieran Kinsella seem to have oozed straight from the core of a tree to form solid, functional shapes sans glue or joinery.

Wood is the core material for these furniture makers. Their palette is the rippling patterns of the grain, the deep contrasting sap lines, the organic and lilting imperfections. It’s a unique respect for the material that moves their creative energy. Josh Finn, who started the group three years ago, finds the wood inspires him to replicate many lines and shapes he sees in nature.

There is also a “green” thread running through the group’s ethic, an effort to curb the makers’ carbon footprint. Most pieces in the show are made from locally grown trees, rather than exotic woods from overseas. Andrew Hunter, who uses Japanese hand tools to create his work, finds more wood from a downed tree in a backyard than from the mill. Many of the furniture artists also work with found objects.

The group runs on a shoestring budget but manages to keep up their website, advertise, and exhibit on a yearly basis. Their monthly meetings at one another’s studios strengthens a professional connection and camaraderie, necessary for furniture artists who work long, solitary, hours.

There’s a conscious hum of integrity and durability that accompanies this carefully crafted work. As contemporary as this furniture is, they are all heirloom pieces that defy our disposable culture. The makers’ passion to tailor a piece of furniture for a specific person or client is a shared experience: creating an original piece is the soaring antithesis to grabbing a chair off the showroom floor or choosing the dresser that comes in a box at Ikea. From design ideas to a finished piece of furniture, works at this show have been labored over for several months, if not longer, and will most likely prompt many questions that begin with “How long did it take?” or “Did you do this all by hand?” And, unlike other art shows, not only are the artists present and available to explain their work, but, the viewers are encouraged to touch, handle, sit, open, and close the furniture.

The Hudson Valley Furniture Makers 2010 Exhibition and Sale takes place at High Meadow School, Rt. 209 in Stone Ridge, October 8 through October 11. There will be an opening reception on Friday from 6 to 9pm. Exhibition and sale hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 6pm; Monday, 10am to 4pm.
click to enlarge A chair and table by Michael Puryear
  • A chair and table by Michael Puryear
click to enlarge A clock by Jeff Johnson
  • A clock by Jeff Johnson
click to enlarge A recliner and footrest by Josh Finn
  • A recliner and footrest by Josh Finn
click to enlarge A pedestal by Kieran Kinsella
  • A pedestal by Kieran Kinsella

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