Jere Osgood: Modesty and Mastery
Jere Osgood is one of the best craftsmen alive today. And also one of the humblest. He’s been a pathbreaker as a furniture designer, but also as a technical innovator. On top of all that, as a teacher he helped nurture a generation of superb furnituremakers. In this slideshow, he talks about a range of his pieces as well as about his experiences as a student and a teacher.
WORKING WITH CURVES
Straightforward Joinery for Curved Work Jeff Miller demonstrates three basic techniques that are the bridge to more beautiful furniture.
Osgood grew up an only child on Staten Island, and was introduced to woodworking as soon as he could manage the stairs down to his father’s basement shop. His grandfather and his uncles had shops as well, and every family gathering started with a visit to the shop to see who was making what. By the time he was in his early teens, Osgood was repairing antiques for his neighbors and taking his first commissions for building furniture. He remembers delivering a large bookcase he built when he was 14–it was winter and snowy and he had no access to a truck. His conveyance for the piece? His sled.
After studying architecture for several years in college, Osgood decided he would rather make furniture than design buildings. In 1959 he enrolled in the woodworking program at the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology. There he studied under Tage Frid, the charismatic Danish furnituremaker who would go on to become the most important early contributor to Fine Woodworking. Osgood, reserved and modest but enormously productive and inventive as a furnituremaker even then, had a rocky relationship with Frid, who was his opposite in temperament, gregarious and needling, and who chided Osgood for inventing joinery as he went along.
Osgood set up shop in the early 1960s and by the end of the decade he had begun the experiments with tapered bent lamination and bent stave lamination that enabled him to make the tapered curved legs and curved cabinet carcases that became hallmarks of his style.
Osgood’s career as a teacher began with weekly classes at the Craft Student’s League in New York City. He then taught for one year at the Philadelphia College of Art, for three at his alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, and for ten years at the storied Program in Artisanry at Boston University. For the past 25 years he has been giving occasional lectures and workshops but mainly just working away in the shop attached to his house in rural New Hampshire.
More Masters of the Craft Slideshows
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• Adrian McCurdy: Furniture Riven from the Log
• Geoffrey Warner: Assembling a Life
• Peter Shepard Turns the Page
• Curve It Like König
• Partners in Craft: Harold Wood and John O’Brien
• Tool Chest with an Arts & Crafts Legacy
• Adrian Potter: Thinking Furniture
• Hank Gilpin: Exploring the American Forest
• Doug Mooberry: Kinloch Woodworking
• Michael Hurwitz: Planks into Poetry
• Brad Smith: Story of a Stool
• Hank Holzer and Judith Ames: Labor of Love
• Michael Fortune: The Clever Chair
• John Cameron: A Musician in the Woodshop
• Allan Breed: The Past Recaptured
• Kintaro Yazawa: Joint Wizardry
• Grant Vaughan: Subtropical Virtuoso
• William R. Robertson: Micro Maestro
"The chair has to be approached as an engineering project...I don't feel that's a hinderance. It's a big adventure."
Jere Osgood at work in his shop.