8.12.2010

Here's to Patrons

Custom furniture makers don't make a lot of money. Sure, there are a few out there that have done alright--there are the Sam Maloofs, Wendell Castles, and James Krenovs--but most makers labor away in relative obscurity and with a modicum of financial security. And it's a tough life, too: about the time experience takes a maker to their highest skill level and keenest eye, you wake up one morning and say to yourself man, my hands sure do hurt... Thing is, you gotta love doin' it, but that's really the way the arts should be anyway.


While i haven't been really pursuing the difficult path of spec gallery pieces (i.e., pieces that aren't commissioned, but rather built speculating that someone, somewhere will buy it), i have gotten the opportunity to make some pretty fun stuff from the ground up. I've been able to both pay the bills and also avoid having to take the random kitchen-cabinet-nail-gun-box route and the reason for this is simple: patronage. In my case, as in a lot of cases, this patronage comes from one person. Someone takes a liking to your style or ethic or what-have-you and they hire you to build multiple pieces. I have a friend that made a twenty-five year career out of a relationship with one couple. I don't know if i'll be so fortunate, but i do have someone who, over the last three years, has hired me to build six different pieces for them. Four of them are complete, two more are in the works.

Over the years i've been really lax at documenting my pieces. I have every intention in the world of getting quality photographs and then time crunches down on me and i find myself installing something before i ever get a good shot of it. After that i tell myself i'll go in later with a professional photographer and get a good shot of the pieces in situ. Because of expense or because i haven't figured out how to add more hours to a day, I don't ever get around to doing that, either.

But, finally, the other day i put my perfectionism aside, and while installing the latest piece, i walked around my patron's house and tried to get at least some decent pictures of the stuff i've made. It's tough to do that, though. I've got a good digital SLR camera, but a low quality and limited lens. Tight space and using natural light complicates matters further, not to mention how odd angles reek havoc on perspective--large things get wonky and unattractive. There's an enormous amount of effort and skill shooting an interior. Nonetheless, i just put all that aside and tried to get the best images i could. I played with perspective and lighting in photoshop and am at least willing to accept the results. Here are four of the shots. If you click the photos it'll take you to Flickr where i've written hasty descriptions of the pieces.

india-bed


dining-table

cabinet

community-table

7 comments:

Cindy said...

I absolutely love the furniture you have built! If I didn't live in thousands of miles away, I would have you build us some furniture. Your stuff rocks!

Quiche said...

Beautiful pieces! I love the very Chinois theme you designed here! Gushing with admiration! Fortunate patrons! The design of the bed reminds me of Indonesian designs- I would have one of those ornate, lattice work, enclosed platform beds...love those. Would love to have seen close ups of the ornament on the bed, but I realize the predicament you described of photographing, but if you get better photographs, please post them (: Glad to see you are pursuing your furniture design, and I appreciate and can relate to the labor of love, patience, blessing, tactile aspect of it ("tatch" the wood), skill, immense satisfaction and gratification in creating, and the "pain" involved. So far, I have no arthritis in my hands (my back on the other hand...), and I do think that playing violin (banjo, guitar, mandolin, etc.) helps- "move it or lose mobility" seems to be the key in keeping it at bay. I'd be a patron if I had the kind of money befitting of your talent...perhaps in a few short years (: Infinite blessings!

Carol McCullough said...

This stuff is AWESOME, Biffle!

Sarah said...

There is not nearly enough oohing and aahhing of your work here in the comments section. I'm so impressed, it's all spectacularly realized. I remember when you were working on the table, it turned out spectacularly! Keep it up friend!

Tawanda Bee said...

oooohhhh aaaahhhh... amazing!

Kelly Love said...

I'm late catching up on my blog reading, but wanted to say: BEAUTIFUL! You have an amazing talent. I especially love the cabinet piece (second to the last photo), but would be overjoyed to have any one of them grace my home.

Stephen said...

This is good! Do you have a web site for your work? I worked on this site for a Chattanooga custom furniture maker, I believe it helps him bring in new work.