Sam Maloof: Reflections on a Master Maker
Over the course of a sixty-year career, Sam Maloof became one of the two or three most prominent custom furnituremakers in the world. He was best known for his rocking chairs, with their sculpted joints and swooping lines, and in recent years they were selling for over $20,000 apiece. But he made a wide array of other chairs as well as cabinets and tables, and he also built his house and shop, designing and making every aspect of the buildings inside and out. This audio slide show presents dozens of images of Maloof’s furniture, his house and his workshop.
Commentary on Maloof’s life and work is provided by four furnituremakers and one scholar. Brian Boggs, a nationally prominent chairmaker with roots in the Appalachian post-and-rung tradition, describes his first contact with Maloof and reflects on what that moment said about the man.
Maloof was entirely self-taught, and Miguel Gomez-Ibanez, a period furnituremaker who is the director of Boston’s storied North Bennett Street School, which teaches traditional cabinetmaking, among other crafts, places Maloof’s approach to making furniture in historical context.
Robert Erickson, who has made chairs and rockers in northern California for 40 years, was inspired early on by Maloof’s chairs, and he describes what elevates Maloof’s chairs above so many others.
Edward S. Cooke, Jr., professor of decorative arts at Yale University, has written widely on American furniture both period and contemporary. He has also curated some of the most important museum shows of contemporary custom furniture, including Inspired By China, which was featured on the back cover of Fine Woodworking in 2007. Cooke has been observing Sam Maloof’s career for three decades, and he talks in this audio slide show about the way Maloof developed his designs through a series of slight evolutionary steps rather than making radical departures.
And Tom Hucker, a gifted furnituremaker in Hoboken, NJ, describes the importance of usefulness in Maloof’s furniture and also describes the impact Maloof had on him when he took a two-week class with him as a teenager.