A world of wonders - Can-do approach

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A world of wonders
Can-do approach
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After graduation, he worked as a journeyman for the Gumilgen Orgel Fabrik in Switzerland through 1976. Still in his early 20s, Schürch had no definite career plan set, but wanted to continue training in the things he admired and enjoyed doing. It seems as if he found his calling through a bizarre combination of different skills and, as he jokingly says, “What happens when you combine a church organ builder with a boatbuilder? A marquetarian, of course!”

Returning to Santa Barbara, he worked for a local shop for a year, building cabinets. Then he decided he had to break out on his own, to find a niche that would challenge him, and exercise his artistic skills in a new way.

Can-do approach
Schürch started working out of his garage in 1979 with a few hand planes, a refurbished 10" Craftsman table saw, his beloved chisels and a strong desire to succeed.

What sets Schürch apart is he relies upon various forms of income to sustain his small business, especially in this difficult economy. Teaching, writing, tutoring, product sourcing and testing, consulting, and selling veneering tools, all supplement his furniture making, which still remains his primary passion.

When he initially started his own shop, he centered on the local economy and relied on his clients’ word-of-mouth to get work. He took anything he could get, most of it being some kind of specialty work, including circular stairways, millwork and cabinets in curved kitchens.

“It was challenging, to be sure. I got the jobs no one else wanted or knew how to do. My first response was to say to the client ‘Sure, I can do that.’ I seemed to be up for the challenge and would convince the client that I somehow knew what I was doing.

“Clientele that appreciated my work started growing and I started displaying my stuff in galleries with an eye toward museum shows. It’s a gradual process that takes patience, perseverance and a lot of hard work.”

Schürch solicited himself to builders, designers and architects, went to new building sites and dropped his card into designers’ hands wherever he could. Hanging doors or doing carpentry was a way to get on the job site, and, soon after, clients began to notice he had more skills that could be utilized for more complicated work. It was a gradual process that allowed him to slowly put money into good tools and set up a shop to do what he really wanted to do. Later, as his shop grew, he relied upon many apprentices, co-workers and specialty shops to help complete the projects he had.

“I have great gratitude for the efforts of these people that helped me get to where I am today.”

Traveling woodworker
Still, traveling was a big part of his life. With schooling and scheduling work, he has to make travel plans about eight months to a year in advance. He has traveled back to Europe at least once a year to visit family and friends and to continue his education from the masters. Joseph Neidhard in Switzerland and Franco Remonti in Italy are two that have influenced him very much.

“I still feel so humbled by the craftsmanship I see in Europe. They really know how to put stuff together. Unfortunately, they also suffer from modern times, where cheaper products are more readily available, and more and more shops close doors, not being able to attract the younger apprentices to learn from and replace the retiring masters.”

Schürch realized he had gaps in his knowledge, needed more education, and wanted to see more of the world. He traveled for one-and-a-half years around the world, woodworking in  shops in New Zealand, Japan, Egypt and England. He discovered he didn’t really understand curves very well —how and where to apply them — and knew he could possibly find what he was looking for in the boatbuilding environment. Anyone can build a box, but he wanted something more.