In my travels through life, art is — and has always been — with me. Never limited to one medium, my focus is furniture combined with applied arts, painting, and sculpture.
I have always loved connecting the dots of different objects to one theme, to a place, to four walls. So this space, Harold Wood: A Room of His Own, combines my explorations in various media and my travels into in a single subject. It emerged as a retrospective of my life’s work: making a living with art, struggling to be successful and to survive.
My initial, modest, inspiration was to create dining chairs and tables. However, the competitiveness in the furniture business made my idea seem like a daunting task. Then my thoughts moved beyond just making furniture to creating furniture and a room of its own.
I have always lived with one foot in the past and one foot in the present. I’ve been inspired by the glories in wonderful rooms from the past — the Stoclet house (Joseph Hoffman), for one — that brought together various craftspeople, each adding his or her own perspective, experience and craft to a space.
Designers today, with the help of time gone by, have many varying periods, styles and themes to draw upon to create spaces that marry the collective experience with their clients’ tastes and architecture. As I had no client, I became my own, exploring and blending my love of Arts and Crafts, Secession Vienna (Weiner Werkstatt), pre-Raphaelites, Klimt’s allegories and myths and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Queen’s description of the death of Ophelia seemed a good place to begin.
Being my own client brought with it a significant problem: a lack of pressure. To finish timely something worthwhile when you have endless time to play is an excruciating lesson in discipline. McNay Director Bill Chiego, by giving me this opportunity, created a deadline, a constraint, in which to complete this task, which otherwise might have gone on indefinitely.
I believe that circumstance always dictates creativity and the need to improvise because of time. Some of many things my father taught me was to limit your materials, colors, subject, and that the lack of time causes you to be more direct and to trust your instincts. And maybe, as a result, many of your ideas become more decisive and real.
So my goal with something like a complete room must be like painting a work of art. It’s not what you put into it that counts; it’s what you leave out. Time makes those decisions. All you have to do is have the courage to begin.
The media of applied arts and decorative arts have had a hard time overcoming the modern view that materials and space should be free of decoration (Le Corbusier’s statement “Applied arts are dead.”), and that pure design and function is all that matters (monochromatic white, concrete, furniture made of leather, chrome, no mixed media).
I agree that is one view of the media, but a limiting one.
A well-rubbed plaster wall seems to come alive when you add a fine work of art, an applied object. A room needs to feel a sense of intimacy, a place you might have been before, a small element in a space that is noticed — the touch, the smell, the color, the softness of waxed wood, a sense that applied art has its place, a niche to hide a romantic thought, to touch the soul of past craftsmen, to see the hand, to feel that you are a part of the persistence of craft ... that what has gone before is not lost in such a fast computer-driven world... that the hand can be enhanced with very modern machines.
In this room I have picked a moment in time, a passing thought that has its beginnings in a past era. To touch the knowledge of craftsmen from the past was always a struggle with the soul to achieve the same results. My room, I believe, is a result of that struggle, is of this time, and is a collection of my experiences as an artist today.