Modern woodworker favors traditional technique
April 1st, 2011
Omaha, NE – A Benson furniture maker prefers no frills when it comes to his pieces of functional art, leaning toward a more natural kind of beauty in the wood variety. Tucked away in downtown Benson, Colley Furniture Studio is as bare bones as his furniture. Vintage woodworking tools hang on the walls, some inherited from his grandfather who was also a wood worker.
Andy Colley said he doesn’t always know what the tools are for or even how they are used, but he lets the tools themselves tell their story. He inspects the worn grips and grinded blade angles to guide him as to how they might have been utilized. He takes the same approach to his furniture. “Wood as a medium is different than a lot of other art mediums, because it was a living thing, so each piece is different each piece has its own quirks, grain, and color,” said Colley. “It doesn’t make sense to design and then try to fit the wood into that design, the design should come from that wood.”
Colley doesn’t embellish his furniture. He says he feels the raw beauty of the wood speaks for itself without his added lines, flowers or other details. Most woodworkers, according to Colley, don’t see themselves as artists. The quality of his work can not only be seen by the organic minimalism of natural wood and its inherent details, but by the details he painstakingly hides. It is this traditional approach that puts him on a different level.
When comparing himself to other woodworkers, who he said sometimes think his dedication is “funny,” Colley said, “They’re not going to spend a full day cutting one joint on a piece of furniture. They’re going to get a router out, put a screw in it, put a plug on the screw and call it good.”
It’s the small details that he spends the most time on. Colley said, “Sometimes the hardest joints I cut are because I don’t want them to be seen, because I don’t want them to take away from the piece, the finished piece.”
If wood is his canvas, then the Colley Furniture Studio is full of potential artwork. Large planks of raw wood line the walls along with smaller, less ornate scraps. Colley sees every discarded scrap as potential art. Inviting him anywhere near a wood burning stove, he said, would send him searching through your wood pile. In an age in which Colley said society would rather “throw away,” he hopes people will come around to an old tradition, and step away from the particle board.