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Amateurs shine at Design in Wood exhibit

The San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association held its 29th Design in Wood exhibition June 12-July 5, co-sponsored by the San Diego County Fair and the 22nd District Agricultural Association. What is considered to be the largest woodworking exhibition in the country, this year's juried exhibit featured more than 350 pieces and a total attendance of about 2.3 million.

Joseph Bush won the top prize in the Contemporary Woodworking: Furniture category for his "Orchard Lover's Cabinet" at the Design in Wood exhibition.

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"This show was probably the best that we have ever seen," says show director Bob Stevenson. "We had a lot of different entries this year; a lot of new people entered the show and we had the most entries we've ever had. We started out with 402 and we had to jury some out because the size of the objects and so on. We ended up with 369, which is almost 40 over our previous high in 2001. It was very well-received because of the beauty of all the pieces that were in the show. It was just fantastic."

The Best in Show award, chosen from all the first-lace category winners, went to Patrice LeJeune for "Das Bild" in the category of marquetry/veneering: art.

"It probably had the highest degree of difficulty of anything in the show," says Stevenson. "The picture was only 6-1/2" x 4-1/2". It had about 300 pieces and 19 different woods. The cutting on it was just amazing. We took a photograph of it and blew it up and there were no saw kerfs."

The San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association was organized in 1982 to unite people who share a common interest and enthusiasm for working with wood. The organization has more than 1,600 members - amateurs, hobbyists and professionals - who share their ideas, techniques, expertise and love of woodworking.

About 70 percent of the Design in Wood entries are from amateurs and 30 percent from professionals. Stevenson says it is getting more difficult to discern the pieces made by professionals and those by amateurs.

"Each year the quality of work seems to outdo the previous year's. It's amazing, but I think people are learning how to finish and they are learning how to use different woods, match the grain and things like that.

"Some people enter their one and only piece and win a prize and they are amazed that they have done so [even though] they have taken a lot of time and put a lot of effort into it. And, of course, the professionals, their pieces stand out. But it's getting to the point where their pieces aren't standing out quite as much anymore."

Patrice LeJeune used more than 300 pieces and 19 different woods in his marquetry piece that won Best of Show at the 2010 San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association's Design in Wood competition.

Two of Stevenson's favorite pieces were the "Orchard Lover's Cabinet" by Joseph Bush and a cherry huntboard made by Richard Ugoretz, winner of the Master Woodworker trophy.

"The 'Orchard Lover's Cabinet' had some pieces of walnut that were taken from the graft point on the tree with 'pictures' of a female and a male in the door panels. The center panel has a bookmatched cut that made a heart. The workmanship in this piece was just phenomenal. It's just a great piece."

Carpenter conversation

The 20th Century Decorative Arts Department at Bonhams & Butterfields will present a gallery talk with Tripp Carpenter (Arthur Espenet Carpenter III) on Oct. 2 at its Los Angeles gallery. The event is planned to coincide with the auction preview for the 20th-Century Decorative Arts sale on Oct. 5. The preview will feature pieces related to Tripp Carpenter, Arthur Espenet Carpenter II and major figures of the studio craft movement, as well as strong examples of Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern works.

The occasion will feature a discussion with Tripp Carpenter about the recently published book written by his late father, "Arthur Espenet Carpenter: Education of a Woodsmith," as well as his journey to becoming a craftsman.


Bonhams & Butterfields, 7601 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046.

San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue.

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