Meet our June LEAP Finalist, woodworker Brian Millspaw! His work is elegant and organic, and the finish is breathtakingly smooth. Come see for yourself, his hand carved cherry furniture will be on sale at our store through August 15th.
SCC: Tell us about your work.
My current work is furniture, and to me furniture must be functional. So, you can sit in my chairs and put things on my tables. Another part of function is longevity. To me, a chair that only lasts for today is only suitable for sitting around a campfire. I’m interested in heirloom furniture. When I design something, my first thought is the construction … How can it be built, how can it be put together to last. I use time tested methods that are difficult to reproduce in a factory. This allows me to push the limits of what can be designed in wood.
My second thought is the aesthetics. I want something beautiful, of course. I want something alive, something with movement. I work in a static media, but I’m trying to make the piece run down the hall or climb up the wall. A potential for action. An explosion in wood.
SCC: Tell us about your training.
I mostly learned on the job.I studied architecture at Carnegie Mellon for 2 years. Then, I worked in a series of furniture and architectural mill work shops. I worked 4 or 5 years in a carving factory hand carving reproduction furniture parts and working with designers from top furniture concerns to create new products. All that time, I worked on my own practicing aspects of the craft that I was interested in.
SCC: Why were you drawn to wood?
My father was a carpenter. From a young age, I always had a toolbox and a workshop under the stairs to the basement. I’ve always made things. I have worked in metal, bone, leather and plastic. But, I have an affinity for wood. I understand it and I like the process of working it. The way the shavings curl off of a sharp edge brings me joy. Hunting down a fresh oak log is an adventure. The smell of it as you split it wide open is the reward. And, if by some chance, I can coax that wood into a piece of furniture. It’s like raising a child into a successful adult.
SCC: What inspires you?
Well, I’m inspired by shapes and curves, sea creatures, insects, plants. I also like reading science fiction. Where do the ideas come from? I guess nobody knows. I am most inspired to work when I see people doing good work.
SCC: What good advice have you received?
The best advice I’ve ever got came from an old man, a good friend and lifelong artist. He said “I don’t often give advice, but if you want to do this work, keep an eye on your money.” He never followed that advice;
which is how you know that it was earned the hard way.
SCC: What advice do you have for others?
Be persistent, I don’t think that there are many overnight successes in craft work. If you believe in it, you just keep at it.