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Arthur Espenet Carpenter
Education of a Woodsmith

Bubinga Press: 2010
Hardcover, 140 pages, $60
ISBN 978-0615-33783-8

    Art Carpenter, though diminutive in stature, was a giant in the woodworking pantheon. A contemporary of Esherick and Nakashima, Carpenter was the patron saint of the Baulines Craft Guild, the groundbreaking craft guild founded in Bolinas, California in 1972. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 86, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of original work and a philosophy that has profoundly influenced the lives and outlooks of a generation of woodworkers and craftspeople worldwide.
     This book, an autobiographical journal of Art's life and career, written over decades, is a rich and fitting tribute to the man and his expansive mind. Eloquently written and profusely illustrated with marvelous photographs, sketches and scribbled notations, it takes the reader behind the scenes and into the inner thoughts that drove and informed his iconic woodworking style, once dubbed the "California roundover" style for its ubiquitous rounded edges and sculpted curves.
     Carpenter was intensely involved with the design process, which he summed up in a sort of mission statement that is quoted at the end of the book:

"My object is to design and make objects of everyday utility which are comfortable to live with, enjoyable to touch and to handle, will last aesthetically and functionally, and will, it is hoped, communicate a level of care beyond the bare bones of utility."
     Frugal and inventive, and remarkably tuned to his materials and processes, Carpenter was consistently thinking "out of the box" of production methodology and predictable forms, instead arriving at designs that were daring and unique, and as economical of line and expense as possible. His finished work, consisting mainly of chairs, desks, tables, music stands, bandsawn boxes and miscellaneous furniture, embodies his contentious and complicated attitudes about art and craft, invoking the views of Oscar Wilde, Marshall McLuhan and others. He idealized art with a small a: "anything thoughtfully conceived and executed so well that it becomes beautiful. It elicits the sympathetic emotional response to something called beauty, and this can be in the form of a table, a song, a building, a painting, or any other performance," as opposed to Art with a capital A, which outweighs beauty and function.
     Art Carpenter was the real deal, an articulate and prolific creative genius, and a true godfather of modern woodworking. This book has captured the essence of his genius for posterity. I can't recommend it more highly.
. . . Ellis Walentine