When it comes to woodworking, Brian Pietrowski is a jack-of-all-trades. One day he’ll craft a conceptual art piece made from plywood and Formica; the next, he’ll build period-authentic studio furniture. And that’s the way he likes it. “There are so many different ways to approach furniture and design and construction,” says the Portland artist. “I find myself dabbling in everything. I just like making things, that’s what it comes down to.”
That desire to build has led to a variety of commissions. Pietrowski teamed up with fellow woodworker and Oregon College of Art and Craft alum Adam Blankinship (see “Portfolio,” Sept.-Oct. 2006) to build reproduction Monterey Mission-style furniture for some historic buildings at Crater Lake National Park. He’s constructed tables and built-in cabinets for restaurants in Portland. He’s even designed and built wooden teaching tools for local Montessori schools. “I’m doing a woodworking unit for a Montessori school in Vancouver, Wash., where I’m helping the students build a hope chest for a fund-raising project,” he says. “I think it’s important to get kids to understand what goes into making this stuff, and to give them the knowledge to make it themselves.”
Pietrowski draws inspiration from a variety of things, depending on the style he’s working in. For this playful chest of drawers (right), he played off of the design of Japanese safe-like tansu chests called funa dansu. “The ones I saw were heavily gilded in steel and had little trick drawers and boxes that popped out,” he says.
His version features a sculpted ash base, a steel-covered wooden box (with a hand-etched floral pattern on it), a cast-concrete slab top, and secret doors and drawers. “It’s a fun, interactive piece,” he says. Pietrowski, 27, studied architecture at the State University of New York in Alfred, N.Y., before earning his bachelor of fine arts degree from OCAC in Portland. “I still love design, but I really love being in the thick of things and actually making pieces,” he says. Pietrowski’s chairs start at $500; this tansu-inspired chest of drawers costs $4,000.