I’ve mentioned him a lot in my posts so far, and luckily I was able to learn from him this past quarter as an intern professor. Richard Newman is incredibly brilliant and talented but unfortunately has given up on making furniture. Now he makes banjos, probably the most well made you can buy. He had a great run of making some of the most complicated, intricate, and precise furniture of his time. I could ramble on and on but here are pictures of some of his work.
The centerpiece for the P&E show was a fluted cabinet on stand. It is difficult for anyone, except perhaps another maker, to appreciate the amount of time that such a piece requires, particularly for a small shop such as Newman’s. The cabinet design evolved from Newman’s thinking about fluted boxes (see 1989 Ebony show). The cabinet itself is oval, making its design and construction even more difficult. Its single door opens to a bird’s-eye maple interior that houses two shelves and one shallow drawer. The stand’s four legs are shaped helical flutes that twist in opposite directions on the left and right sides of the cabinet. The helix begins as a straight vertical flute from the foot that travels through the ebony bracelet attachment for the stretcher, and then accelerates. The stretcher mirrors the fluting of the cabinet and is surfaced similarly with figured maple facings and ebony trim. The diameter of each leg increases in proportion to the increase in the helix. The ebony finial is itself an accomplishment of form and execution. There are a number of excellent case pieces in Newman’s work, including the one that would be in the 1989 MFA Boston exhibit New American Furniture, but none would compare with the flamboyance and passion of this piece.
The design of Richard Newman’s umbrella stand also used the bound bundle metaphor. This time the structure is actually made by joining of curved staves. These elements were not staves in the usual sense, they were complex laminations that allow the compounding of the curve. The elements that joined the staves were surfaced in ebony, adding a heightened sense of depth, structure, and material richness. Although the form itself was attractive and unusual, on close inspection it was the beaded bronze banding that made you catch your breath. The braided beads were individually cast and gold plated, and set into an ebony bracelet. A perfectly fitted, interior-blackened copper canister fulfilled the piece’s functional promise.
-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology, http://byronconn.com