One of my favorite woodworker/designer/craftsmen is Sam Maloof. I think that his designs are truly unique. He seems to have created a woodworking and design style all his own with the furniture pieces he has created over his lifetime.
Recently I have been doing some reading on Maloof and some other designers – looking for guidance and inspiration. While doing so, I came across a couple of quotes from Maloof that are interesting to me and that seem to symbolize his work and approach. Maloof says:
“My goal is to make furniture that people can be comfortable living with. If you’re not preoccupied with making an impact with your designs, chances are something that looks good today will look good tomorrow.”
“I try to make my things aesthetically pleasing; but, if it isn’t functional, people will ‘oo’ and ‘aah’ over it in an exhibit but they won’t buy it. … My feeling is a chair has to be functional and comfortable for tall and short alike.”
What this says to me is that: for design, form follows function. It seems to me that Maloof believes that if you build something that is functional as well as beautiful, that design will endure changed viewpoints over time and always remain aesthetically pleasing. I think that I agree with this perspective as it relates to furniture design – which, I think was Maloof’s intent. Purely artistic pieces can certainly be beautiful but, they are rarely functional. While I think that developing art in wood is a valid pursuit, for furniture designs in wood, I believe that function is where we must start.
Another interesting – and fairly famous – quote from Maloof is:
“There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it.”
To me, this quote is the epitome of Sam Maloof, his designs and his impact on woodworking in general. Somehow, when you look at Maloof designs there is an intangible but, unique quality that is there in the design… a soul. I’m not sure where this comes from or how to get it into my furniture designs but, I’m working on it! It would be great if there was a simple checklist that designers could go through for each design to assure that these qualities were present but, of course, there is no such thing. My sense is that that the best first step toward attaining these rare qualities in my own designs is through closer examination of those designs that seem to exhibit them.
I’d be interested in your take on what makes Maloof’s designs so timeless, functional and beautiful as well as any other designers that you feel achieve this quality with their work. Please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com with questions or leave comments here using the comments link at the end of the posts.