A world of wonders - Turning to teaching

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One can’t help but notice Schürch’s work looks meticulously engineered. A graceful curve or a small detail here or there. But contrary to how it appears, the inlay and marquetry is not as difficult as building the furniture piece itself. He will spend up to 20 percent of the time designing and drawing the blueprint of a piece prior to cutting wood.

“I break my stuff down into three styles that can appeal to different groups of people. One is the neoclassical-oriented design rooted in tradition. Bouquets of flowers, ribbons with swags. They go to clients that have a classical eye that like the left hook I throw into it. Another is an Oriental style of simple lines and images, and the style of Art Nuevo, organic, floral and flowing in nature. These styles are now tending to merge together in the designs I presently do.

“I feel that the furniture has to have a common theme between the imagery and overall shape to really be successful. Too often I have seen furniture with an overall design and imagery that seem to be done by two different shops or designers, which was often historically the case. I want them to work together, to project a unified visual feeling.”

Schürch moved into his present 3,300-sq.-ft. shop in 2001. “Santa Barbara is a small, beautiful beach town with lots to offer. The downside is the high cost of living and the premium on shop space. Thankfully, I was lucky in finding the right space when the market was relatively low.”

The shop features a Powermatic 10" table saw, Walker-Turner lathe, Kirchfeld 4' x 8' hot press, Vac-U-Clamp vacuum frame press, and several Festool tools. He shares the shop with another cabinetmaker and has access to a Martin table saw and Delta 12" jointer. The many European hand planes, saws, and veneering tools are used on a daily basis.

Schürch employs a full-time apprentice and bookkeeper, and subcontracts most of the shop’s finishing work because of an intolerance for certain solvents. He also subcontracts some of the metal work and all of his Web site development.

Turning to teaching
Schürch says he would love to continue building large furniture pieces, but it’s becoming a question of priorities and how much his body can take. He is now doing smaller projects such as jewelry boxes and smaller pieces. The table he is currently working on is a small 30" diameter inlaid sushi table with an expanding flower pedal drawer mechanic, which will open all curved drawers simultaneously by spinning the top on its center.

He is also teaching furniture making and marquetry classes at his shop, which he started in 1999. The teaching occupies about 30 percent of his time these days, as he usually teaches about eight classes a year. He also schedules individual tutoring for those who need assistance.

“Some people don’t have time to come out and take a class. They’re so busy with their lives and work that I can come out to their shop and set them up with what they need”.

In the case of larger shops, he has been hired as a consultant to look for solutions to production problems, help with veneering projects, or explore ways to expand their product lines.

Interior designers have used Schürch as a resource to find unusual materials and make their ideas work, a service he would like to expand.

He has run an apprenticeship program, modeled after the one he went through in Europe. It required a one- to four-year commitment and regular tests in all the trades associated with furniture making and repair. There have been 10 graduates. However, he is currently not accepting any new apprentices.

Schürch says he wants to grow the consulting side of his business. He also plans to revisit Europe, and possibly Dubai, where a lot of new innovative work is currently being done. He is also hoping to use the Internet for online classes at some point in the future.

“We are becoming a more digital society. People are much less willing to travel, but are still searching for some form of hands-on education. I can easily imagine a virtual class that could be set up between an instructor and several students throughout the U.S. in real time. All it needs is the Internet, monitor and camera set up at all locations making it come close to a hands-on instruction program, done in the comfort of one’s own shop.  The technology is there, and it will only be a question of time before some of this could be implemented.”

Contact: Schürch Woodwork, 731 Bond Ave., Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Tel: 805-965-3821. www.schurchwoodwork.com