« 'Who's on First?' — 'Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th Century' | Home | Best article of the month — Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster confounds Brian Carney of the Wall Street Journal »

June 25, 2006

Martin Pierce — Woodcarver, sculptor and furniture maker extraordinaire


A native of Worcester, England, he lives and works in Los Angeles.

His website invites you to explore "Furnishings" or "Hardware".

Katherine Salant of the Washington Post found his work (above and below) the single most interesting thing she saw at the annual spring trade show of the kitchen and bath industry.

Here's what she wrote in her June 17 article.

    Architectural Delights

    Of all the things I saw at the kitchen and bath show, however, the most interesting was the wonderfully un-categorical work of Martin Pierce, a Los Angeles woodcarver, sculptor and furniture maker.


    Pierce does not create pieces targeted at the kitchen and bath, although they would be a happy addition to either room. Instead he creates the kind of "environments" that were common a 100 years ago when elaborate craftsmanship was central to architectural design. Architects not only designed the house itself; they also designed all the furniture, floor tiles, door handles, window latches, cabinets, doors and leaded glass windows. It was possible because they could tap a huge work force of craftsmen who could execute almost any type of architectural design -- whether it was somewhat spare and linear a la Frank Lloyd Wright or the wildly curvilinear, stylized trees, leaves and animals that characterized art nouveau design.

    Although many architects today design complete interiors, very few have access to skilled artisans who could create anything close to the exuberant celebration of nature that characterizes Pierce's door handle and drawer and cabinet pulls. For example, his ergonomically comfortable door latch, on closer inspection, is a curved tree branch, the surface that your hand grasps its leaves. There is also whimsy -- a door latch is a lizard eyeing a moth below for lunch; the moth is actually a door bolt The lizard reappears on a rounded doorknob; this time it's crouching on a lettuce leaf. Or, you could find yourself clasping a bunny rabbit that is reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, whose children's books have been staples of childhood for a century.

    That his customers might make this association is not surprising, Pierce said, because Potter was part of his own childhood. The Worcester, England, native said Potter ceramics, child-size plates and bowls with decals of her most famous characters, "are everywhere in England."

    For most people, Pierce's work will seem very familiar, like a lost link to childhood. For designers, it offers aesthetic possibilities considered impossible to achieve today because it has long been thought that the craftsmen who could produce them had passed from the scene.

    Pierce's metal pieces are either cast bronze or stainless steel with an antiqued patina. Each piece is individually cast, using a somewhat laborious, multistep lost wax process that allows him to produce a startling level of detail. For example, the lizard that is wrapped around the door handle has realistic-looking skin scales. The lettuce leaf on which it sits has veins.

    Pierce's furniture is not as detailed as his door hardware, but it is squarely in the vein of the Arts and Crafts style. For example, a single, round, 24-inch-diameter base that is carved to simulate a tree trunk supports his 60-inch round dining table. The table surface is burled myrtle and walnut, edged with a three-inch carved walnut lattice that resembles a stylized cross section of a hedge. The same motif is repeated in the dining chair backs.


    The intensive hand labor of Pierce's work makes it expensive. The retail price of the dining table is $10,000 and the chairs are $2,000 apiece. The prices for the door and cabinet hardware were not available at the show, but the firm's press materials indicate that a single handle and latch plate is several hundred dollars.

June 25, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Martin Pierce — Woodcarver, sculptor and furniture maker extraordinaire:


The comments to this entry are closed.