Chris Held

To Portland woodworker Chris Held, furniture is a way to connect with a past that’s disappeared from much of America. “I work with old materials and weathered finishes to infuse my furniture with nostalgia,” says Held. “I grew up in the sprawling suburbs of Atlanta where everything old was torn down to make room for the new. My furniture represents a yearning for the old, for something that doesn’t smell of fresh asphalt.”

Brian Pietrowski

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.”

Ben Carpenter

Imagine crafting a piece of art without being able to really see what you’re creating, only having the vision in your mind to go on. That’s exactly what Portland woodworker Ben Carpenter does when he carves his vessels and sculptures. “After I’ve turned the basic vessel shape on the lathe and hollowed it out, I sit down in a chair with my hand-held power carver and start carving away at it,” says the 23-year-old. “But during the whole process it looks really rough and you can’t see the grain until you put the finish on, so you have to be confident that it will turn out the way you want it to.”

Ken Tomita

To make the legs of his tables black, furniture designer Ken Tomita uses sumi, Japanese calligraphy ink. He got the idea while studying architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. “We were given an assignment to come up with 10  different ways of making wood black,” he says. “I used the ink for one of them. I discovered that it has the right amount of gloss, and it’s a deep black. It’s like painting a void.”

Helga Winter


Growing up in Germany, Helga Winter never imagined becoming an artist of any kind, much less a woodturner. “When I was a child, I did a lot of knitting and crocheting, but it wasn’t considered art because it was practical,” she says. “When I left school, I worked as a doctor’s assistant.”

Michael Arras


For Portland designer Michael Arras, his early experience with art gave no indication that he’d eventually decide to design furniture. “In school, I took art classes with everyone else,” he says. “But I didn’t have a real interest then. Mostly I doodled.”

Richard Massey


To learn woodworking, furniture designer Richard Massey apprenticed to both his father and his grandfather. “I’m a fourth-generation woodworker,” he says. “It’s in my blood. I learned a tremendous amount from my grandfather, and not just about woodworking, but also about life. He was a wonderful person.”

Michael Hampel

Shop Talk

For woodworker Michael Hampel, his wave sculptures are a way to bring the ocean to him. “About 10 years ago, I got back into surfing,” he says. “When you’re going over a wave, there’s a second where you can see right through it, and that’s what I’m recreating.”

Lawrence Newman


While growing up in sunny San Diego, Calif., furnituremaker Lawrence Newman was frequently surrounded by wood, metal and tools. “My grandfather was a general contractor, so I spent a lot of time as a kid on his project sites,” he says. “I’d take things apart and try to get all the pieces back in order. Once I even took my grandfather’s chainsaw apart and put it back together, and it still worked.”

Michael Olfert

Image Most people sand the paint off salvaged wood. Artisan woodworker Michael Olfert, on the other hand, makes sure the paint stays on.