Monday, March 16, 2009

Wood Artist Profile: David Hurwitz (Part I)

Of all the artist/craft careers, studio furniture maker has to be the hardest. The combined struggles of mastering the craft of woodworking, developing original designs, maintaining a fully equipped studio, and marketing a product that will cost many times other similarly functioning objects are at least as great than any other discipline. Having made furniture as a hobbyist, I have a good sense of what goes into making furniture with traditional joinery and I know that the artists are lucky to be making a living wage. There just isn't any way around the fact that making fine furniture takes an enormous amount of time. On top of this, just about every schmuck with a table saw has a romantic dream of living in the woods and making furniture for a living; as a result, the competition is extremely stiff.

With the knowledge of these difficulties, I always appreciate seeing someone getting recognition and being on the cusp of making a name for themselves, perhaps even being able to make a reasonable income. Randolph, Vermont artist David Hurwitz is just such a person. As a professional furniture maker since 1988 and self-employed since 1993, David recently had two of his solo piece, along with two collaborations with stone sculptor Kerry Furlani, featured in Lark Books new publication "500 Tables":

©David Hurwitz 2009
(this little table - bird's-eye maple top, maple legs- actually looks to be dancing)
©David Hurwitz 2009
(Kerry made the top and told David to make a table with it, I think he did a great job of integrating the two components together)

©David Hurwitz 2009
(this one they designed the components together)

and a writing desk that is also featured in Fine Woodworking's Design Book Eight:

©David Hurwitz 2009
(I really like the use of ash for the legs on this one. The bold lines really work well with the strong curved legs; and the asymmetry of the legs really gives it a sense of being alive. It looks like a bull ready to charge.)

With the occasion of these accolades, and with the thought that I (and perhaps others) would be a lot more interested in this blog if it covered other wood artists, I interviewed David last week in order to get some insights about his work. For space considerations, I'll divide the profile into three posts.

As you can see from the above images, as well as this one, a wine cabinet that was published in Fine Woodworking a few years ago,

©David Hurwitz 2009
(It seems appropriate that waves/ripples would be a key element of a wine cabinet.)
David has a knack for creating lightness and movement with big, thick pieces of wood. He has developed a style that is unique and identifiable as his own -- an important trait in trying to make a name for oneself. The work also seems to be as much sculpture as it is furniture.

Here is David -- I suppose most photographers would take a picture of him pretending to make something but I think this impromptu image may be more insightful:
And this is where he works, one of the more upscale industrial parks scattered around Randolph, VT:

Interestingly, as I was wandering around his shop he told me about scoring some mighty fine lumber from the estate of Hugh Townley. Hugh's son was recently looking to sell his remaining inventory of very rare mahogany and other mysterious woods and the rumor of the impending sale made its way to David by chance. Look at this stuff! wormy mahogany that looks like it was devoured by a small snake!

Neither of us could identify the lump of wood on the bottom left, David just thought it was interesting and is planning to polish one side for a small sculptural table.

And a plank of mahogany that is about 24 inches wide! They aren't cutting trees like this any more.

The HT below was labeled by Hugh himself!

David says he hasn't bought or used mahogany since the mid-90's, partly due to its endangered status, but since this stuff was cut long ago there didn't seem to be much harm by indulging. In addition, David was told that the next day someone was coming to buy the lot for trim molding! What a waste that would have been.

All designs and images Copyright 2009, David Hurwitz


  1. love seeing another studio and knowing david is out there. how can you not appreciate someone who makes works of art that is functional and not the same ole same ole.
    makes it even better knowing he is making his living this way.

  2. Beautiful! Creative! Inspiring! I hope you achieve the success you merit. I found this page by accident, but I am so glad I did.

  3. I recently had the good fortune of meeting David and purchasing one of his pieces; now I wait with breath catching each time I check UPS tracking. David is an inspiration, but even he may agree that it doesn't make us dreamers schmucks.