Michelle Frederick: Blending Art and Woodworking to Create Fine Furniture, Sculpture and MoreComments (1)
Art has always been a part of Philadelphia native Michelle Frederick’s life, but a woodworking class she took during her sophomore year in college forever changed her ultimate career path that finally led to The Krenov School in Fort Bragg, California.
“I fell in love with the
material (wood),” Michelle explained. Two of her four brothers also followed
artistic pursuits – one a tattoo artist and the other a student of
glassblowing, photography and painting – but she is the only sibling interested
in working with wood.
Serious woodworking would
have to wait, however, until Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science degree in
Fine and Studio Arts, with a focus on sculpture and photography, from New York
University and spent five years studying and working in Spain
Life and Art Spanish Style
After a high school trip to Barcelona, Spain, Michelle was determined to live there someday. “I knew the easiest way to get a visa was to become a student, and I wanted to continue studying art anyway, so I found a program (Metafora Talleres de Arte) and applied,” Michelle explained. “I moved there at 27 and stayed for 5 years. I learned so much from that experience.”
Michelle completed a
nine-month program that enabled her to experiment in a different way than she
could in her undergraduate degree art work – more like an independent study. “I
was exposed to a lot of contemporary art through school lectures,” Michelle
said. “I sold a sculpture to a film director who then commissioned more
pieces, which led to a series of camera sculptures.”
Life in Barcelona also
included working at the Villa del Arte Galleries, an international art gallery.
“I was able to travel and see art in various countries, which was very
inspirational,” Michelle said. Her job included setting up exhibitions and
travelling and working at fairs throughout the world, as well as liaison with clients
and artists and handling the gallery’s social media.
Time to Work Wood
“I decided when I was in Spain that I really wanted to focus on woodworking, so when I went back to Philadelphia I enrolled in a few classes at The Philadelphia Furniture Workshop,” Michelle said.
She also rented space
later on at NextFab, which is a member-based community shop, to work on her own
woodworking and sculpture pieces.
Stop – The Krenov School
In 2018, Michelle enrolled in The Krenov School.
“My drive to
pursue woodworking was based on my desire to better execute my artwork,”
Michelle shared. “I was drawn to working with wood as a medium and wanted
to understand the material and learn techniques so that I could use them
in my work. I've always been interested in furniture but wanted to approach
it from a more conceptual, artistic angle. The Krenov School allowed me to
deep dive into fine woodworking and understand the craft, but I also saw it as
an art school in many ways, which I loved.’”
“Plant Vanity” (Photos: Todd Sorenson)
“Plant Vanity,” Michelle’s first project as a Krenov student, is an 18" x 33" x 7" mirror surrounded by a Frame attached to a Shelf with Drawers built from Claro Walnut and Sycamore.
the juxtaposition of delicate plants against the hardness of wood; the plants’
natural, undulating forms contrasting the clean, intentional lines of the
design,” Michelle said. “The mirror simultaneously emphasizes the plant cuttings
and reflects light onto them.”
During this process, Michelle said it became apparent that, without knowing it, she had been inspired by a dresser from her grandmother’s home. It displayed antique perfume bottles that sat on top of a mirror that highlighted their presence, making the mirror equally as important as the objects.
“Display Cabinet”. (Photo: Todd Sorenson)
“I designed and built a
cabinet that is meant to hold items on one side and displays artwork,
memorabilia, or plants on the other side,” Michelle said. “The glass top
is removable. It was an opportunity to work with veneers, glass, and new types
of joinery. I chose Louro Preto because of its striking color and grain
pattern. I wanted to use dark, hardwood that contrasted against the glass,
which highlights what is displayed inside.”
Beyond The Krenov Shop
Woodworking. A 2019 Krenov graduate, Michelle
currently has a bench at the Cypress Street Barn in Fort Bragg where the
artist/fine woodworker/designer creates furniture and art pieces.
“Since graduating, I’m
grateful to have had several commissions, including a piece based off my
first project at The Krenov School, a king-size bed and a writing desk,”
Michelle said. “I’m currently at the Barn full-time working on another
desk commission and my own artistic projects. I’m also going to be
participating in two furniture exhibitions this summer, which I will
prepare for over the next few months.”
“The bed was an exciting
opportunity, not only because of the scale but the engineering needed to make
sure it was sturdy, well-constructed, and knockdown,” Michelle explained. “I
used a lighter wood, Ash, which visually lightens the piece and is also
strong. The clients requested an all-natural finish, so I experimented
with a soap finish that came out beautifully on the Ash.”
“King Size Bed.” (Photos: Michelle Frederick)
“Writing Desk" built from solid Beech and Spalted Beech Veneers.
Michelle at her Cypress Street Barn bench. (Photo: Miles Gracey)
“Woman with Agave” is a composition of found images displayed in a handmade Walnut frame that Michelle created for The Krenov Foundation Raffle. (Photo: Michelle Frederick)
The Krenov Foundation Board. Michelle is still connected to The Krenov School through her membership on The Krenov Foundation Board.
“I very much enjoy it,”
she said. “It’s been a great opportunity to connect with other
woodworkers/alumni in the community and also to learn more about James Krenov
himself and his work. I helped organize the ‘Krenov 100’ digital exhibition for
Krenov’s 100th Birthday and was able to spend a day among original Krenov
cabinets, listening to people record testimonials, including his daughter
Tina,” Michelle shared.
“I was also a part of the
Krenov Raffle, which raised money for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of
Color) Scholarships to the summer program that are now being awarded by the
Foundation. I’m grateful to be a small part of this necessary change,
which makes the field of woodworking more diverse and inclusive.”
Thank you for sharing Michelle's story. She's a special person with so much talent. And she makes the effort to share her love of the arts with her community and that makes each place she lives better off because she's there. Keep up the good work, Michelle.
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