Monday, September 1, 2008

Long's Park Art & Craft Festival

The Long's Park Art & Craft Festival is a juried exhibition of the products made by talented craftspeople who work in a variety of media. I sought out the woodworkers, of course, and asked them about their pieces.

First I encountered Joe Graham (Photos 1, 2, & 3. Photo #2 is from Joe's website), Windsor chairmaker and instructor/owner of Lenox Workshops in Ohio. Joe works with handtools and at the show used a workbench made from 3 slabs of thick, single-dovetailed wood, a stretcher, and tusk tenons. The bench didn't rack at all while he used a drawknife to shape spindles, so it was an effective, knock-down workbench—perfect for travel.

Joe, who studied with Mike Dunbar and Ernie Conover, offers week-long classes, including private room, all meals and materials. By the end of the week, you will turn a log into a Windsor chair, using only handtools. The classes focus on several styles of traditional Windsors, but Joe also offers his own adaptations in his product line.

Next, I met Sam Martin (photos 4, 5, & 6), who makes intricately-detailed scale reproductions of a multitude of vehicles and who co-wrote Making Toys: Heirloom Toys to Make in Wood. As if the amount of work required to construct his pieces wasn't impressive enough, he pointed out that all his vehicles have moving parts. Doors & tool boxes open, gates fold down, fire truck ladders extend, and spreaders on road graders move sideways and foreward and backward, just like on a real one.

The logging truck was my favorite and he explained that the miniature logs were cut from saplings on his property. I asked how he made the tire treads (shown on the road grader and on the vehicle above the cattle truck). He cuts the circle first and then uses a table saw jig which is equipped with a protractor that indicates where to cut the treads. His products make great gifts for collectors as well as grandkids. But if they were my grandkids, I doubt I'd let them play with these beauties unsupervised!

Brad Smith (photos 7, 8, & 9), owner of Bradford Woodworking, studied at R.I.T. and belongs to the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen.

Brad builds unique and custom pieces, some of which incorporate his signature design element—ax handle legs—which are turned on an antique ax handle lathe. The lathe leaves a ridged pattern on the wood which ax makers would sand smooth. Brad instead allows the ridges to remain, which gives his pieces a handcarved, organic look.

His tractor seat stools, which include ax handle legs, also feature a reproduction tractor seat, produced by an Amish foundry in Lancaster County, PA, that comes complete with the Bradford Woodworking logo.

Be sure to check out Brad's website and also his blog.

The last woodworker I met was Todd Gill of TMG Designs (Photo #10). Todd is a recent graduate of East Carolina University and worked collaboratively with Brian Bortz to design the sofa tables in his booth. Brian designed the shape of the tables and Todd constructed them and designed the decorative inlay, made from metal and colored resin, for the table tops. All other pieces in Todd's collection are designed and built solely by him. He mainly works with veneer over mdf, which enables him to control wood movement and allows him to use highly figured species.

The designs have a contemporary feel, and Todd told me his products sell better in certain larger cities that appreciate modern furniture. The market, he said, changes with each year and it's difficult to predict when pieces will sell or not. Todd works part time in his business, participates in 10 shows a year across the country, and works as a sub contractor for other furniture makers.

He was also the youngest participant at the show, in his early twenties, and it was refreshing to see this kind of talent in a young woodworker.

Be sure to visit the woodworkers' websites for more information about them and their works of art.