I have been building furniture professionally since 1983. I started working wood as a young child in my father's basement workshop. When I was four, my parents gave me my own toolbox. I still use it, and my sister still has the doll bed that I built for her then. And today I use the workbench that my father built before I was born.
For the first thirteen years of my working life I was a silversmith. It taught me about attention to detail, form, and negative space. And there was a portability that was important in my twenties. I could move my entire studio in my car. Some of my current work has design roots in forms that I forged years ago in silver and in gold.
In 1983 I started building furniture full time. My first commission was for a bed frame, which I sold over the phone to a man who had just bought a futon from my then-wife. He had never met me or seen a piece of my work, and I had never built a bed, but it all worked out very well. Then I built us a bed, showed it to other people, built them beds, and beds became my specialty.
This is how I put myself through college in my thirties, working in my garage. The first winter there was no heat. I dressed for work the way that I did for an ice climb, and I kept the glue bottle in my pocket so that it wouldn't freeze. The second winter I built an oil drum wood stove, and put it next to the table saw. The garage was not very big and sometimes workpieces would extend out the door.
I graduated in 1988 with a double major in molecular biology and biochemistry, a minor in math, a thriving micro-business in my garage, and some life decisions to make. I spent nine days alone in the wilderness, thinking, came home, and leased commercial shop space on North Broadway in Boulder, which I occupied for seventeen years.
My first part-time apprentice came along in the mid eighties. He was a refugee from corporate computer life. By the early nineties I had two full-time people, and spent a lot of time managing. I wanted to explore artistic directions that I couldn't focus on while running an operation of that size. By the late nineties both people had quit and not been replaced.
In my early years here I found a successful niche building shaker, mission, and arts & crafts style furniture in domestic hardwoods. This is how I first built my reputation and the success of my business. I still do work in these styles, and like them very much. I do not expect their classic elegance ever to go out of style.
My artistic explorations have led me to what I now call my Flowing Wood series. These are pieces with cleanly curved lines, smoothly sculpted organic forms, and open airy spaces. The style is influenced by Art Nouveau, by Sam Maloof and James Krenov, and by forms that I forged years ago in gold and in silver. They can be seen in my showroom, and on my website.
I retain a strong commitment to functionality in my furniture. A chair should be comfortable, a table sturdy, a desk should suit its owner's work style.
ABOUT MY WOODTURNING:
For a long time I have been interested in turning wood on the lathe. In junior high woodshop in the mid sixties I turned a bowl that I still have, and my father did some beautiful work at the lathe when I was in my twenties. But woodturning remained a dormant seed in my mind for many years. My lathe gathered dust, except for an occasional set of table legs.
Through the late nineties, I thought more about turning. I became friends with two master turners, attended demonstrations, watched videos, began to acquire the specialized tools, and bought a better lathe.
And then, one day, I started turning. I loved it, and I spent thirty consecutive days at the lathe. Every day I would say to myself "Tomorrow I will get back to my 'real' work, but just one more day turning".
Now, I have demonstrated on the national level, and seen my work in books, and on magazine covers.
Currently I divide my time between turning bowls and building furniture. I love them both in very different ways. When I build furniture, I start with an image in my mind, and choose suitable boards. I can spend days or weeks, watching my image become real, and I am the source of it. Turning starts with an attraction to a particular gnarled old log, I work freehand, with no sketches and minimal planning, and results show quickly. There is a primeval feeling of working directly with a tree and its story, and the log is the source.
- Bruce Cohen