Skip to main content

Design in Wood exhibition is a big draw

The San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association held its 27th Design in Wood exhibition June 14 to July 6 at the San Diego County Fair, held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar, Calif. The guild was formed in 1982 to promote member work in its annual Design in Wood exhibition. This year there were 302 entries from 165 entrants in 22 different classes. The association added a marquetry class this year, splitting the furniture and the flat-panel marquetry into marquetry art and marquetry furniture categories.
“The show changes every year, but this year we’re getting a lot of feedback from people going through that it is one of the best that we’ve ever had and the workmanship overall is probably the best I’ve ever seen, especially with the finishing, which has been a long time coming around,” says Bob Stevenson, Design in Wood coordinator. “We have at least eight volunteers plus my staff each day working in the gallery just to handle the crowds that are going through there. We do docent tours twice a day, so we take people around and explain the judging process and how the pieces are built. People really appreciate that.”
SDFWA is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to uniting people that share a common interest and enthusiasm for working with wood. There are currently between 1,400 and 1,500 members — men and women, amateurs, hobbyists and professionals — all sharing their ideas, techniques, expertise and love of woodworking.
Each year SDWFA sets up a 19th-century cabinet shop where members build children’s chairs for charity. The association has made about 2,000 chairs through the years, and is building 50 solid oak chairs this year.
“We prepare some of the parts ahead of time and we have two volunteers working at workbenches where they can talk to the public,” explains Stevenson. “They take all the machine marks off and shape the seats, the back legs and front legs. Then we have a master, one of three, who sits at the master’s bench who assembles the chairs using hide glue.”
Some of the SDFWA members take the chairs home to finish them at the end of the show and then organizations such as day care centers and schools are selected to receive the chairs.
“We also do chair caning in that shop and we cane four seats for these little chairs and we donate these to [Rady] Children’s Hospital [in San Diego] along with a table and then they auction it off to raise money for the hospital.”
Each year, the exhibition has a theme and this year’s was “Summer of Sports.”
“We got a lot of theme entries,” Stevenson says. “The first place in not-to-scale models was a little woodie and that was in competition for the theme award. There was a large kayak that actually won the theme award, but we got surfboards; it was interesting to see what people came up with. We have a coffee table that has some baseball memorabilia in it under the glass. I expected a little bit more, especially from the wood turners because they’re not against doing things like turning baseball bats and baseballs, but they stuck with their real fancy stuff.”
The Best in Show award was presented to Nathan Anderson for a guitar built with Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce. The selection from the Musical Instruments category was unexpected by many, including the show coordinator.
“It was surprising that our Best in Show turned out to be a guitar,” Stevenson says. “It’s a wonderful piece, but I think there were a lot of other things in the show.”
The Design in Wood exhibition has been recognized by many as the premier juried association/guild exhibition of custom work in the country and attracted visitors from across the country.
“We’ve been having people come from as far away as the East Coast and I had a couple in here the other day that came down from Idaho strictly to see the show,” says Stevenson. “The way the guy explained it to me was it takes your breath away; it really made his trip worthwhile to come down here and see this. We’ve established ourselves as a big draw for the fair. People come just to see the Design in Wood and we’re quite proud of that.”

Maine man
The Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, the oldest non-profit crafts organization in the country, has named studio furniture maker Matt Hutton as one of its three recipients of the annual SAC Artist Awards. Hutton is an assistant professor of woodworking and furniture design at the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. Hutton’s work will be on display at the Society of Arts and Crafts Awards exhibition from Aug. 9 to Oct. 12. Other recipients are Claudia Olds Goldie, a sculptor specializing in ceramics, and Peter Houk, a studio glass artist.
“The artist awards is one of the four exhibitions we organize a year, except it happens every other year,” says Fabio Fernandez, SAC gallery manager. “It’s a juried show open to New England artists working in the contemporary craft media — wood, fiber, clay, glass and metal.”
Artists apply for the biennial juried exhibition by submitting 10 images, a résumé, and an artist statement. The recipients are selected by three jurors considered experts in the field.
“This year it was Bebe Johnson of Pritam & Eames, Susan Cummins who had the Susan Cummins Gallery, and the third person was Christine Temin, former writer for The Boston Globe and arts critic,” Fernandez says. “There is a cash award of $3,000, so each artist will get $3,000 to do whatever they want and [exhibit in] a group show.”

San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association, P.O. Box 82323, San Diego, CA 92138.
Society of Arts & Crafts, 175 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116. Tel: 617-266-1810.


Related Articles