Masters of the Craft

Masters of the Craft

Sam Maloof: Reflections on a Master Maker

comments (5) July 29th, 2009 in blogs, videos

JonBinzen Jon Binzen, senior editor
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Produced by: Jonathan Binzen

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.

posted in: blogs, videos, sam maloof, audio slideshow

Comments (5)

thedude50 thedude50 writes: Sam was much more than you will ever be a master of the craft the man was a great designer and a wood artist. I cant believe what you said you are now an insignificant Pyle of dung birth of time I cant believe a looser like you can trash a giant of a man like SAM
Posted: 4:24 am on July 13th

trashpicker trashpicker writes: ????Birthoftime???How can you say he would be a "one-hit-wonder"??? He came from someone who knew nothing about woodworking to being a MASTER. Not only making a living at it for decades but designing furniture like no one else... Have you no idea what it takes to accomplish this--not just once but over and over again???...Keeping himself focused and informed???...learning not only design but the execution of those designs??? Do you know what you're talking about?? Who are you?? What is you experience??
Posted: 3:04 pm on January 22nd

birthoftime birthoftime writes: If he had been a musician Sam Maloof would have been considered a one hit wonder like Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting. I am sure that Mr. Maloof was a nice person but is that the reason Tom Hunter made a chair so similar? What's so hard about a new idea occasionally?

Posted: 5:47 pm on December 3rd

ekruggel ekruggel writes: I've known Sam for over 35 years, have 21 of his pieces. Several one-of-a-kind. They are without a doubt our most treasured pieces of art we have in our collection !!

We lived close to him and spent quite some time at his shop. My wife Patty, started it all by talking me into getting one of his rocking chairs.

We are so proud of our collection of this mans' talent!

Posted: 11:57 pm on August 22nd

rococojo rococojo writes: Never having the pleasure of meeting Sam Maloof, residing in England. His work and ability shining highly, over 60 years?
Then I starting to ask myself? Why Not?
you have met other Famous US makers, but then I realise, Sam Maloof? never had the pleasure of meeting me.
It’s a fact of life? Very few are recognised while living, which is very Sad. As every one needs that feeling of being wanted, and furniture makers life can be a lonely one.
But Sam was training others I read, and this is why his memory will live on.

Posted: 7:01 pm on August 4th

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