Mind & Hand, Contemporary Studio Furniture Book Review

Over 170 photos of inspirational work from the 2010 Furniture Society conference.


Mind & Hand, Contemporary Studio Furniture

Painters, potters, sculptors, and to some extent turners and carvers, are fortunate - they have widespread access to galleries that showcase their work. Not so for furniture makers. Apart from the occasional exhibition, which is usually in some far off locale, we can really only visit the works of our colleagues through books or the web. While I regularly troll cyberspace for new and interesting work, I much prefer thumbing through a book. There is a distinctive tactile pleasure I get from cozying up in a comfy armchair and flipping paper pages - not the same experience I get with a tablet computer or eBook reader.
Mind & Hand: Contemporary Studio Furniture is a compilation of photos from the 2010 Furniture Society conference held in Cambridge, MA. The theme of the conference was 'Fusions: Minds and Hands Shaping Our Future'. In total the work of about 70 makers is presented. While you might recognize a few of the names (Garry Knox Bennett, Michael Cullen, Silas Kopf, or Judy Kensley McKie), the bulk of the work is from Furniture Society members who either operate small, custom furniture shops, or are avid hobbyist woodworkers. The book also showcases some student work.

The 170+ photos in the book are grouped into five categories: members and guests work (open to all Furniture Society members), outdoor furniture (likewise open to all members), juried work (members who are currently enrolled or graduated from training programs in the New England area), historical woods (furniture made from reclaimed, salvaged or re-purposed wood), and student work  nominated by faculty of various member schools and training programs. Within each section makers are presented alphabetically. There is a brief introduction to each of these sections.
What I like about this book is the diverse range of work, from Garry Knox Bennett's abstract pile of kindling to the conventionally styled cantilevered rocking chair of Robert Bragg. In general, I find the wide range of functional and artistic styles and designs refreshing and inspiring. While I don't necessarily like all the work shown in the book, I'm struck by how inventive woodworkers can be, and by the very diverse ways we interpret the relationship between form and function in our craft. I also like that most of the work is shown full page, and there are lots of close-up shots highlighting interesting design and construction details.
In general, the quality of the photography is good, but not exceptional. Most pieces are shown against a dark background, which is fine for light coloured woods, but doesn't show off dark woods all that well. As well, it seems that quite a few of the pieces were not properly illuminated when photographed - the overall appearance is dark, and colours muted.
Still, if you're looking for some inspiration for your own work, or you simply enjoy viewing finely made furniture, then I think that, like me, you'll appreciate this book. It's one, that I'll continue to take pleasure in for some time to come.

FormatHard cover, 160 pages
PublisherSchiffer Books

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