Friday, May 22, 2009

Sam Maloof, 1916-2009

The world has lost one of its most well-known and iconic woodworkers. Sam Maloof died Thursday night, May 21, at the age of 93.  You can read more about it here.

Sam was a key element in the California modern arts movement and is perhaps best known for his distinctive rockers.  The organic, clean lines and natural finish give his rockers life.  About them he said, "All the parts come together in a very rational way, but they meet each other in such joyful connection. There seems to be a pleasure that the leg fits the chair.  They're happy to be together.  It's as if they really have grown together."

I watched a PBS documentary last year called "Craft in America" in which Sam was one of the artists who was interviewed.  His principle of following your heart, doing what you are called to do, resonated with me.  

Consider yourself fortunate if you were able to take a class with him or meet him in person. Like each piece of his handmade furniture, he was one of a kind.

*The photo above is from Fine Woodworking's website.

11 comments:

Jerm said...

A very sad day indeed! I have been fortunate enough to visit his house twice.

Bill Stankus said...

Oh no, that's so sad. We've lost someone, a true one of a kind, some one who advanced the craft and shared his loving humanity with all.

I spent some fantastic hours with Sam, back some years ago. He had boundless energy and I remember teasing him that he could build a chair while his wife was getting herself ready for church.

I once asked him if he ever compromised anything - you know, like a young actor who drives a taxi or waits on tables waiting for things to come together. He paused for a moment and replied he had never done that.

Visiting Sam and Frita and being in his home and shop are still crystal clear memories.

One time I listened to Sam and Tage Frid "argue" about dowels and dovetails. It was like watching a tennis match - back and forth, and so amusing.

I loved that guy.

One thing he told me - always give back to your craft. I hope I've done that over the years.

Sam, rest in peace.

The Village Carpenter said...

I love that, Bill: "Always give back to your craft."

Gary said...

Years ago I met him at a Woodcraft seminar. He was the most unassuming of people. He described his work as simply something he did because it gave him pleasure to see people enjoy the furniture. No artifice, no awareness of having become an 'icon'. He simply did what he did because it felt right to him. And that is a lessen I have tried to carry with me ever since. His presence will be sorely missed by never forgotten.

Gary

The Great Ethan Allen said...

How very sad! I was just reading an article about him in one of my favorite carving magazines. He's a Legend in wood working.

Ed Paik said...

Sad news! Thank you for sharing Kari. I posted a link to your blog on Woodnet as I am sure others there would want to know. I hope that's ok.

Regards,

Ed

Woodbloke said...

Kari - his stuff was excellent and the woodworking community is poorer for his passing.
I once had a look at a DVD showing Sam in action in his 'shop on various machines including a circular saw, bandsaw and hand held router. Whilst not wishing to decry the man, his techniques made my eyes water and could in no way be considered text book examples of the correct way to use machinery. Living to the age of 93 is remarkable in itself...what's even more remarkable is that he managed to do it and be able to count to ten on his fingers.
A sad day indeed - Rob

tico vogt said...

To be scrupulously accurate, WoodBloke, his fingers did not constitute a perfect set, as photos and interviews testify. He had an accident, but joyfully moved on and never looked back. He was a native genius and will always be one of my "main men" in woodworking, along with Nakashima and Krenov.
I had the opportunity to sit in one of his chairs at the Boston Museaum of Fine Arts. Now, I like a good chair as well as the next guy, and appreciate great workmanship and imagination, but it all came together in the experience of sitting in or on that collection of shaped parts in a way I hadn't expected. The sensation of actually sitting was elegant, powerful, and very seductive.

Ironically,it's likely that Sam didn't have much time himself for sitting, given his prodigious output.

Michael Dunbar once told me what a mensch Sam was. He embodied my favorite combination of human qualities: talent, humility, and generosity.

The Village Carpenter said...

Ed, yes, no problem at all.

Woodbloke said...

Tico - "To be scrupulously accurate, WoodBloke, his fingers did not constitute a perfect set, as photos and interviews testify"

...apologies, I stand corrected - Rob

WoodDesign said...

omg..i am shocked
he was my role model on furniture
the man had 93 years and still worked every day
true heroe
and a beautyful soul
Rest in peace Sam see u on the other side