A Conversation with James Krenov
A "stubborn, old enthusiast" reflects on his life of teaching and woodworking
Anatole Burkin, then executive editor of Fine Woodworking, had a conversation with renowned furniture maker James Krenov for an article in FW #162. Read the full text of the article below or become a member to download the PDF.
FWW: Tell me about your early days in Stockholm, Sweden, after deciding to make your first go at being a furniture maker.
JK: We [wife Britta and I] bought a little cottage in the suburbs of Stockholm [in 1960]. We wouldn’t be talking here right now if it hadn’t been for Britta, who knew that there was a shortage of teachers. By then we had two daughters. She took an exam and became a teacher of economics. She had studied economics in the university at Stockholm. That kept us afloat. I just struggled from piece to piece and sold them for a pittance, and maybe sometimes she would remind me that I wasn’t even paying for the electricity down in the shop, let alone my share of the cottage.
Then one or another person showed appreciation, and then the big thing happened: Craig McArt came to Sweden to study at the School of Arts in Stockholm. I met him, and he got me an invitation to come to Rochester Institute of Technology [RIT] where Wendell Castle was teaching. I taught as a guest a few months at a time.
Me, being a sort of pre-Kerouac hippie, I had a message that went with the ’70s, “Live the life that you want to live. Don’t be unhappy in your work.” And students would open their eyes and wonder who this guy was.
It was McArt who encouraged me to write a book, and I wrote A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook [reprinted by Linden Publishing, 2000]. And the first letter I got was…