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If you think your local woodworking show is big, check this one out. The “Design in Wood” show is held yearly in a cavernous hall at the San Diego State County Fair and boasts rows and rows of pieces in 20 categories.
The largest woodworking guild or club that I know of is the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association, and it probably isn’t surprising that they have the biggest show. Put a lot of military retirees in one spot, and that’s what you get.
What is a little different is that their big yearly show happens at the huge San Diego County Fair. So folks gnawing on a giant turkey leg, their ears still buzzing from a concert by an American Idol star, will wander into the Fine Arts Exhibit Halls to have their minds calmed and expanded a bit, until they get bored and head back out to ride the Nauseator.
Every year, tireless volunteers from the SDFWA, led by Bob Stevenson, return to the exhibition buildings at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to refurbish and set up the pedestals, display cases, and exhibition workshops they provide each year for the Design in Wood show. As the current SDFWA president told me, “We all get paid the same, and we just finished it,” referring to the once-yearly cold-cut lunch that the volunteers had just polished off.
For that past 10 years or so, Fine Woodworking has presented the Best in Show award (we earn that honor by ponying up the largest award: $1,000), and this is my third time doing the judging. It is not a total power-trip though; FWW can’t choose just any piece. We have to pick from the first-place winners in the 20 or so categories, and those awards are made by state-appointed judges. It is a state fair after all.
In a tough economy, I expected a few less pieces this year, but I think the opposite happened. Must be the hunker-down effect that happens when people have less disposable income. What stood out this year for me this year were the non-furniture items: sculpture, turnings, bird carvings, huge models ships, etc. I can’t tell you what won Best in Show yet, but now you have a hint.
Since the state judges tie my hands a bit, I always like to blog about the pieces that I think the Fine Woodworking readers would like best, and then throw in a few of my own favorites. These pieces really inspired me.
Yet another platform full of beautiful pieces. This year's show also attracted an array of musical instruments, plus a huge kayak, and even a spiral staircase for a chihuahua.
Two full rows of turnings. The pieces go into the display cases after judging is done. By the way, volunteers build all the cases, platforms, and pedestals.
Aaron Radelow copied the design for this stylized lion from a painting at the Getty Museum. The nice thing about the boulle method is that it leaves a tiny gap between pieces, and the black filler Radelow used makes the whole thing look like an exquisite pen-and-ink drawing.
Bill Churchill’s “Crazy Horse, The Vision” is a stunning carving in poplar that made me think sadly for a few moments about the life native Americans once had on this continent. Churchill is known for the ingenious use of grain lines in his wood sculptures.
Carl Stammerjohn’s Hall Table was the best in its category (contemporary furniture) in my humble opinion, but the state judge put it second. I like the elegant mix of woods an the proportions. Notice the subtle taper in the tabletop.
Here’s another second place I didn’t agree with. Del Cover made his playful Balboa Park Bench to celebrate the famous local outdoor mall. I would have given it first place in art furniture, and a spot in my house if I could afford it.
Sometimes simple is the most beautiful. I was tempted to pick this hollow vessel, made from stunning box elder by Mike Jackofsky, as Best in Show.
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