What makes Sam Maloof’s work so attractive at first glance? When I saw my first picture of his rocker in the old 1983 article in Fine Woodworking, What jumped out at me and said, “Wow”? What inspired all that has been said and done by woodworkers and lovers of fine furniture based on that initial look at his rocker?
Maloof was a master woodworker, designer, finisher, personality and other things wonderful but my thought is to capture all of us so totally with that first glance he used something strong, powerful and quite probably unintentional. Maloof was a master of designing the lines of his chairs around a series of flattened “S” curves. The “S” curve is also called a cyma curve or a french curve among other names.
The allure of the “S” Curve may be based on the power of the human form. Yes it is sensuous. A kind of rough southern gentleman saw my Maloof inspired rocker and exclaimed, “The seat on that chair looks like my wife’s ** looked when we got married”! I know he was on to something.
Sam’s chairs are a series of almost continuous “S” curves. Looking at the rocker from almost any position the curves are long open , reversing radii that just make you feel good as they seem to resolve themselves with a gentle reverse just like the resolution of returning to the major chord in a musical composition. Rarely did he use a tight radius.
The easiest example to observe is the flow of the rocker sleds as they reverse from a 42” radius. Study pictures of his work and you will see! For starters observe one of his arms and a leg from his high back dining chair. How many “S” curves do you see?
-- Charles Brock