Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Furniture Craftsman Andrew Moe Answers 5 Questions

Andrew Moe and his wife Amanda run Studiomoe, a furniture design company in Portland Oregon, where Andrew handcrafts heirloom modern furniture using sustainably harvested American hardwoods. 

1. One of the woods you use in your furniture is called urban salvage Oregon Black Walnut. Can you tell us about it?
The grain colors in Oregon Walnut are very distinctive, tending towards rich dark reds and purples, as opposed to the browns and greys found in walnut trees grown on the east coast.  Amanda, my wife and the Creative Director of Studiomoe, coined the term "Red Espresso" to describe the appearance of Oregon Walnut, which captures it perfectly.  The Oregon Walnut that we use comes from trees that have died naturally or were dying in the Portland Metropolitan region, or had to be removed for construction purposes.

2. Why is sustainability so important to your process?
Sustainably is common sense.  It's not a grand idea, and certainly not a new idea.  From the beginning of time people have known that it is a bad idea to waste resources, and a good idea to care for the land around you in the best way that you can.  It is simply more relevant now that we have the capability to do greater damage at a faster rate.  As we all know, it also feels good to do the right thing, and conversely... 

3. What has been the single greatest influence on your notion of good furniture design?
Simplicity.  I'm not sure that's an influence, but when I see a piece of furniture that is simple, original, and well made (with some wood in it), it really excites me.  Like anything done at a very high level, it should look easy, but is not.  The wood element is something that I can't explain.  I simply find it beautiful and mysterious, I like to think that it is both humble and honest, and I love to work with it.

4. You’re also a writer, and you appreciate great literature. Stylistically, which writer are you most like when you’re designing and creating furniture?
Many of my designs are fairly pared down, so the easy answer would be Hemingway (hopefully) but in temperament, in terms of working, I aspire to Shunryu Suzuki, who wrote one of my favorite books, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, which I need to read more often.  As the title suggests, it's about approaching things as a beginner, regardless of how long you've been doing them.  Aside from the very helpful content of that book, there is something about the style in which it is written that I find poetic.  It is not trying to be beautiful.

 5. You’ve had studios on both the east coast and the west coast. What is your ideal setting for producing great work?
I don't think there is an ideal setting.  My experience has been that the good stuff comes when it comes (if it comes).  But different places offer different experiences. In New York City, working with wood all day in the midst of an intensely urban environment was very nurturing, and grounding.  Here in Portland, in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, there are trees everywhere.  Every ridgeline is shaped by fir trees.  Many of the city parks have giant Sequoia trees that are hundreds of years old. There is a forest within the city limits.  Trees are a part of this place, and the history of the entire region.  This past year Amanda has encouraged me to make smaller gift size items as we're in the process of expanding the company to include gifts and home accents.  The first thing I made, without planning it, were miniature trees shaped on the bandsaw, from scrapwood in the shop.  The trees have a way of getting into your system.  Thankfully.

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