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Colleagues celebrate life and career of Garry Knox Bennett

Garry Knox Bennett

Garry Knox Bennett

The Furniture Society and Center for Art in Wood of Philadelphia celebrated the life of Garry Knox Bennett with an online event in April. Bennett died unexpectedly in January at 87.

“We thought the best way to pay tribute to him and his larger-than-life-sized legacy is by coming together and sharing thoughts and memories, not only of his groundbreaking work and prolific career, but also his inimitable character, wit, and spirit,” says Monica Hampton, executive director of The Furniture Society, who hosted the event with Glenn Adamson.

“Garry had a huge following people from different age groups and backgrounds. Both he and (his wife) Sylvia are so welcoming as people that they just attract friends very quickly. There was quite a big turnout,” says Hayami Arakawa, a furniture maker in Cambridge, Mass., who moderated the event.

Garry Knox Bennett's “Owl” desk (1999)

Garry Knox Bennett's “Owl” desk (1999)

Born in 1934 in Alameda, Calif., Bennett trained in painting, drawing and sculpture at the California College of the Arts and Crafts in the late 1950’s and subsequently blazed a trail in arts of various mediums, particularly woodworking. He was legendary for driving a 16-penny nail into an exquisite cabinet in 1980 as a statement against the preciousness of fine furniture.

“Man, that nail cabinet just put me on the map,” Bennett told Woodshop News in 2016. “It got into some publications that weren’t necessarily craft publications. It was the most sophisticated piece of furniture I have made to date. That was more time than I ever spent on anything.”

Sylvia Bennet, his wife of 62 years, tells Woodshop News the tribute was heartwarming and that she enjoyed hearing others speak about how her husband influenced so many people in a positive way. She says mentorship was very important to her husband as he wasn’t offered such guidance when he was developing his career.

Garry Knox Bennett's “Nail Cabinet” (1979).

Garry Knox Bennett's “Nail Cabinet” (1979).

“He was a very generous person, always sharing thoughts and ideas, sharing encouragement, and discouragement. Furniture making is a tough life. He was very candid about that. It’s lots of hard work. Sometimes it’s a benefit, sometimes it’s a struggle. He always pursued this regardless, and I supported it,” she says.

“He mentored so many over the years and contributed to their past. He didn’t try to shape them; he was there for them. He would make time for people and was so generous with his studio space. He was an encouraging spirit. He was very much about his own work but if you were serious, he was very much engaged about what you were doing and gave a lot of inspiration to people he came into contact with.”  

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue.

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