Sam Norris

Liquor Cabinet
Madrone, big leaf maple, redwood burl, hand-shaped brass drawer pulls
12″ deep x 25″ wide x 35″ high

Texture has always intrigued me; it can create interest in an otherwise plain piece of pottery; it can add depth to a flat piece of metalwork or building façade; it can turn even a simple leaf into a fascinating story of life if we look closely enough at its structure and tiny veins. Learning to apply this curiosity to my furniture design took months of exploration. I wanted to add a new element to my work without overwhelming each piece with patterns that called too much attention to themselves.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the sculptures of Hiromichi Iwashita in a San Francisco gallery that I started to understand how texture could fit into my work. Iwashita used the natural sway of his body and the flow of his breath to guide his gouge over large basswood panels to create pieces such as “Water Weed,” which seems to flow and move with texture but with no conscious pattern. The work stopped me in my tracks.

This inspiration fueled a range of experiments that allowed me to develop a texture that suited my working style. I found that I was not loose enough or trusting enough of my new skill to work without the intention of a pattern. I also was determined not to copy what I had seen so recently, so I worked out a gouged pattern that I could frame with the smooth top and base of a cabinet. The result drew people in, as they reached to touch the surfaces, attracted as much by the appearance of the wood as by the depth and feel of the texture.

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