Long lasting, well-made and beautiful
- Jessie Kirk
- SW Connection - Features
Alexander Anderson is inspired by wood.
He says he lets the wood guide him. He searches for and collects wood, finding unique pieces with interesting texture, colors, sizes or even flaws, letting the wood dictate what it should become.
'I'll come across a spectacular piece of wood and I'll know what it needs to be,' he said.
While Anderson's day job is as a cabinetmaker, his passion is for designing and constructing intricate, stylish, handmade furniture.
The Southwest woodworker recently graduated from the Northwest Woodworking Studio's mastery program. This month his work in on display at Rejuvenation House Parts and he is also establishing a business designing and making items for lovers of fine furniture.
His workshop is his 400-square foot converted garage, complete with designing board, furniture models and lots of wood. His homemade, wall-hung tool chest is filled with hammers, planes, chisels and saws, many of which he made himself. The chest also bears a bumper sticker that reads, 'I love wood.'
'I'm comforted by wood. I get giddy when I find new pieces,' he said.
The woodworker has lived in Far Southwest for three years - the last two of which he has spent in the exclusive mastery program with acclaimed woodworker and published author Gary Rogowski.
'The program is very comprehensive - from designing to buying wood to marketing to setting up a business and dealing with people,' Anderson said.
The school is unique in that the teacher has many one-on-one sessions with the students and most of the work is done separately in the student's own workshops.
Anderson and his classmates will show their signature pieces this month at an exhibit at Rejuvenation House Parts, 1100 S.E. Grand Ave.
On display at the show will be what Alexander refers to as his masterpiece. The elegant, one-of-a-kind wall cabinet with drawers took more than 150 hours to build.
The cabinet, along with the rest of the furniture these craftsmen build, is functional and extremely durable. Anderson said that he is bothered by the trend toward cheaply made furniture with inferior supplies found at chain stores and warehouses.
'I think it's morally apprehensible,' he said. 'If you make (furniture) not to last on purpose because you save $5 on materials and $15 on labor, you've cheated that customer,' he said.
His furniture, and that of his classmates, is different.
'These pieces are not going to last five years or ten years. This is a piece that your children will hand down to their children,' he said.
Now that he has graduated, Anderson can focus on starting his business. He calls his shop Madrone Studio, for his favorite kind of wood. He is beginning to make a series of tables for a catalog and also works on commissioned pieces - one recent customer asked him to duplicate a rare stool; others trust him to make something completely unique.
'You don't have to understand how something is made to understand that it is well put-together,' he said.
Like an athlete, Anderson begins his time in the shop by warming up his fingers making five-minute dovetail joints, (a way to fasten wood together at right angles). He uses the joints often in his furniture designs and likes to keep his skills sharp by practicing often. The woodworker favors making thin joints, a task that is hard to do and beautiful to look at.
'I've made a name for myself with my dovetail,' he said.
His time spent practicing joints, designing pieces, searching for wood and learning more about woodworking is all time well spent as Alexander said that he has found his true calling.
'If money weren't an object, I'd still be doing this,' he said.