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This signature Garry Bennett table will be auctioned off on Friday, June 18, in Boston. I call at an "untrestle" table, as Bennet has reversed all of the conventional aspects of the form. With a very thin top and a cartoonishly bulky bottom, it breaks the mold. The audacious, feminine curves are another favorite Bennett feature.
Other than his own show openings at galleries and museums, it is increasingly rare to find Garry Bennett outside his beloved Oakland, CA, let alone teaching a class. That’s why it was a treat to spend a week with him in 2008 at Marc Adams School of Woodworking, as he built one of his signature trestle tables, to be auctioned off for charity. Adams hand-picked Bennett’s “students” from a list of regular customers, and invited FWW to be a part of the event. We’ll soon run an article on that table in FWW, and on FineWoodworking.com a video of that raucous week at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.
Auction for a good causeBut if you move fast and can make it to the Furniture Society Conference in Boston this Friday, you can buy the actual table Garry made that week in Indiana. Also, you’lll be contributing to the craft, with half of the purchase price going to the Furniture Society and the other half to support new woodworkers. For details about the auction, go to the conference Web pages.
If you are unfamilar with this lion of the craft, read on. The person I met at Marc Adams School was both a mountain of a man and a down to earth guy. His regular stream of profanity put the rest of us at ease (what’s that say about us?), and his footloose style of woodworking was a joy to watch. I came away inspired and ready to re-invent furnituremaking to my own liking, just the way he has.
Skip the “Knox”Happiest when shuffling around his funky three-floor workshop/gallery/home in Oakland, he seems to have only a few complaints. One is people using his middle name, Knox, which has stuck with him despite his best efforts to shed it.
“Nail Cabinet” fameAnother is people who know him only for his “Nail Cabinet,” a fine case piece with a nail driven into it, which ran on the back cover of FWW #24 and drew an avalanche of letters, both pro and con. All I could get out of him about that infamous piece was, “I planned to make a precious thing less precious.”
But Bennett is most bummed out about the shrinking number of studio furnituremakers like him, those who attempt to make art and work purely on spec. “My kind of guys are dying off,” he says.
Roach-clip inventorTrained at California College of the Arts from 1958-1962, he worked as a sculptor, painter, and jewelry maker throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. His big break was inventing the “roach clip,” (he’s the guy!) which sold by the hundreds of thousands in “head shops” ascross the U.S.
So when he began making furniture in the late-‘70s, Bennett had a few advantages: a big nest egg, plenty of workspace, metalworking skills, and art training. His funky mixed-media pieces were a big hit from the beginning—a rare thing in the studio-furniture world. For at least 10 years, everything sold out. That’s probably why he has never had to teach to supplement his income. Even at 74, you can still find him in his studio almost every day, creating usable art, lubricating his creativity with Scotch, and entertaining his local artist friends.
Garry (don’t say Knox) Bennett’s work is among the most important of the 20th century, featured at the Smithsonian and included in almost every other major collection of modern furniture. To fully appreciate it, check out his biography, “Made in Oakland” or visit his Web site.
This table was a group project for charity, and everyone who worked on it signed the bottom of the tabletop.
I've forgotten most of the bad jokes Bennett told us, but I remember almost every excellent tip he shared.
Bennett loved the opportunity to step aside and watch other skilled woodworkers pitch in, but he didn't miss a trick.
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Unfortunately, the bids for the table didn't meet the minimum so The Furniture Society will auction it again next year. That's good news for anyone with deep pockets and a deep appreciation of studio furnituremaking history.
That nail in the cabinet door is probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen on this Web site.
Yeah, Gary is a great guy, and a great artist. It's funny how many of the most talented furniture makers are also the most down to earth. I may be off-base on Bennett actually inventing the roach clip, but he definitely made a pile of dough designing and manufacturing them. I think he did those metal peace signs, too. He's here at the Furniture Society Conference in Boston, so I'll ask him.
Ummm, no further comment on this:
> With a very thin top and a cartoonishly bulky bottom, ... audacious, feminine curves
Great article, looking forward to the video. In few words you get to what is most attractive about Bennett, regardless of what you think of his creations: he is a free man in terms of his language, how he spends his time and what he chooses to create. While I love his work, it is his independence of character that is most inspirational attribute.
Garry's an amazing guy. I used to walk by his shop everyday on my to work years ago and always admired the ancient, huge, unguarded bandsaw that was near the door. One day he was standing there having a smoke or something and just walked in and started talking to him. After that I'd stop by once a week or so if he didn't look busy and BS for a few minutes. Of course I didn't learn until much later how famous he was/is and I never would have guessed by how down-to-earth and just plain cool he is.
All of the roach clips I ever saw (not that I ever saw one--in case anyone asks) were just ordinary electronic alligator clips (like you used to be able to get at Radio Shack before Radio Shack turned into...I'm not really sure what Radio Shack turned into).
If I recall correctly, #24, with Garry's nail cabinet, was the very first issue of FWW that I ever saw, on a newsstand in a B. Dalton at Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrenceville NJ.
This week's prize is a 7-piece router bit set from Whiteside valued at $118!
Fast, fun approach to making a comfortable, casual seat
In this video Michael finishes the first of the three boxes. Gluing-up, planing, sanding and finishing bring a new piece of art to the world.
In this video Michael starts work on the second box, a carved and painted Saddle lid box.
Michael begins carving the saddle lid box with his ripple pattern along the top. Then turns to his 5/30 gouge to texture the sides of the box. This isn't work…
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