My journey into bringing my own unique concepts to the field of woodwork/wood art and sculpture took motion in 1999. While attending Temple University for jazz performance I was hired at Ibanez guitars to perform quality control on guitars eventually turning into specializing in repair and custom work.
My first day I was immediately drawn to a shop full of woodworking machinery that was no longer much in use other than for research and development purposes. I was constantly sanding/painting/customizing all the guitars I owned since I was 12 including the Yamaha acoustic my mom bought for my dad before they were married as a graduation gift. My dad was not too happy when he came home one day when I was 15 to see that I had decided to add a little embellishment to his pristine guitar. Looking back it was I guess my first attempt at wood etching/carving .
(my dad's 1969 Yamaha)
One of the benefits of working at Ibanez was the ability to create/purchase "Frankenstein" guitars made from random parts. I began to use the machinery to create various wood parts for my custom guitars.
Through much trial and error I taught myself the ins and out of the process of creating a guitar from lumber selection to flawless finish work. After creating three guitars from scratch I thought it would benefit me to learn more general knowledge of woodwork.
(first three handmade jazz style guitars circa 2000)
I was lucky that there was an incredible woodworking program being led by Mark Sfirri, a pioneer in contemporary woodwork close by at Bucks County Community College. I enrolled in classes in 2001. Mark's passion and teaching ability in the field of woodwork/sculpture and art exposed me to a new universe that I immediately knew was my calling.
STUDIES AT BUCKS COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
2001 FALL SEMESTER
Our first project was to create a box that was hand dovetailed. Growing up around antiques and having the love for finely crafted works I was excited to learn the process of dovetail joinery!
I went to a local lumber retailer and was drawn to a really cool piece of Bubinga. I chose it because it had a landscape effect, almost sand to red hot sunset sky that I thought would look great wrapping around the box.
At the time I didn't know much about exotic woods and found out the next class from Mark that I selected a more difficult species of wood to try my first attempt at dovetails due to how dense and unforgiving it was.
My art has created a timeline of my life. In this case reflecting back on this piece and time period instantly takes me back to a Tuesday as I was looking forward to going to school and working on dovetailing the box. I still remember the bright blue sky and crisp morning as fall approached.
Then news started to break. Unsettled feelings. Disbelief. Shock as the 9/11 attacks were unfolding. Anybody who is old enough to remember that day will remember that it took a long time to get back to "the norm" and in many ways it will never be back.
Reflecting back on my first project :
Yes Mark was correct that Bubinga was a little more challenging than the mahogany that I hand dovetailed on the following project.
Hand made dovetails are very time consuming and generally never seen in production woodwork even in higher level craft. I really loved everything about creating the box from laying out and marking the dovetails. Hand sawing the lines as accurately as possible and using a chisel to clean up and create as tight of a fit as possible.
I love opportunities like this to participate in traditions that rely on simple tooling but challenge the skills of the craftsperson.
I used walnut pieces for the lid with a piece of Zirocote extending upwards to act as a place to grasp and open the box as well as add detail to the piece
19 years later the box still remains a very significant object to me. The beauty of natural woods and interlocking dovetails create a timelss box that became the true geneisis on my journey in the feild of woodwork.