Profiles: Jory BrighamComments (0)
This article is from Issue 85 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Making modern furniture, with nostalgic aspirations
West Coast furniture maker and woodworking teacher Jory Brigham has a modern take on nostalgia. He designs pieces with mid-century flair and the idea that furniture should last. And Jory believes that anyone can find their individual style. You just need to do two things: Work with your hands and don’t let adulthood erase the creativity, curiosity, and energy you have as a child. Although he grew up in a family full of craftsmen, Jory still managed to cut a swath all his own, creating an impressive variety of furniture collections that have attracted clients from all over the country. Remarkably, Jory also finds time to teach woodworking classes at his workshop in Paso Robles, California. I had the opportunity to visit with Jory, and meet his wife Alison, daughter Parker, son Bozley, and a menagerie of pets that include snakes, chickens, lizards and other critters. Here are some highlights…
WM: Three words to describe Jory Brigham?
JB: Stubborn, driven, and…difficult.
WM: Describe your design aesthetic to someone who’s never seen your work.
JB: Well, I can only tell you what I would hope it is. I hope my designs stir emotion. Whether it be curiosity, comfort, happiness, or my favorite, nostalgia. I try to include different styles, eras, and even cultures into my pieces. I love to hear people say that my designs remind them of their grandparents’ furniture. That was back in the day when people bought furniture with an intent to hand it down to their children. They weren’t scared to invest in something that would be a part of their family for generations.
WM: What’s the one thing you wish people knew about making furniture?
JB: If you truly love woodworking, part of your soul goes into every piece you make. There are so many different approaches to furniture making. Everybody does it differently. That’s how you get one-of-a-kind creations.
How much of one’s self can go into a piece of furniture made on a CNC machine or by a robot?
WM: What makes working with your hands so satisfying?
JB: That is a deeper question I am not really capable of answering. I can only say that it is fulfilling to create a tangible piece that affects the people around us. Working with your hands can be an opportunity to create something unique from your whole being – physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s rare these days.
WM: What’re the best and worst things about teaching woodworking classes?
JB: The best thing is the people we meet at the school. And I love the different ways that the class impacts my students and gets them creating. Getting people to think in a non-conventional way is so cool. The worst thing is the huge mess that we make in class.
WM: What kind of people take your class?
JB: We get men and women ranging in age from 17-70. Some students are cabinetmakers looking to learn new techniques, while others are just getting started as woodworkers. We also get a lot of people from Silicon Valley—computer engineers and computer programmers. I never knew there was such a correlation between that kind of work and woodworking.
WM: What advice would you give your younger self?
JB: Don’t be in a hurry to think like an adult. Thinking like an adult can kill your imagination and slow your growth as a designer and craftsman. And you may garner the wrong lessons from otherwise helpful experiences. The thing that saved me is that I took forever to act like an adult. I still have trouble recognizing things I should be afraid of. And it takes me far too long to learn my lesson. Being naive and stubborn kept me thinking that someday I would do what I loved, even though I didn’t know how to get there. If I had known how hard it was going to be to make it as a professional woodworker, I may have just quit.
WM: What does it sound like when you’re alone in your shop?
WM: What task seems never-ending?
WM: What is one thing you allow yourself to spend money on?
See Jory’s furniture line at www.jorybrigham.com.
To sign up for classes, go to jorybrighamworkshop.com.
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