I am classically trained, in the most ancient sense of the phrase. Like generations of artists who have come before, my education is equal parts observation, apprenticeship and experimentation. I have explored the pencil and the brush; the lens and the landscape; the potter's wheel and the farmer's plough. I have taken classes to learn fundamentals or refine technique. I have taken time away to reflect. But no matter where my artisanal mind took me, my artist's heart always brought me back to the plane and the chisel, the wood and the saw.
Even when life got in the way. Especially then, it turns out.
In the fall of 2009, both of my parents became gravely ill. I was 2000 miles away at the time, living in California with my new wife and our new baby—a girl, Ruby. I was doing some wordworking, but mostly I was doing odd jobs to make ends meet. We’d been in California for more than a decade and thought we’d never leave. The boundless possibility of youth afforded us the luxury of that kind of outlook on the future.
Now, moving back to Wisconsin to take care of my parents seemed like the only choice. So we left. A newly minted husband, father, and caregiver, I had no idea what was ahead of me back home, I only knew it would be a lot of work. And it was. What I was not expecting was that the birth of my new family and the eventual death of my first would create the anchorage points for a metaphorical bridge over which I would travel the next few years on a personal journey to find my truest self. To embrace my fate as a maker of things, a worker of wood, a molder of metals. As an artist.
Make no mistake: an artist’s journey is a challenging one. The drive to bring something meaningful into existence is in constant conflict with the economics of daily living. The materials are equally unforgiving. Wood and metal require great focus, diligence, and intention. They challenge the maker to be better with each cut, or plane stroke, each weld, or blend. Yet if you are patient and unwavering, if you work with passion and purpose, there is an opportunity to find and achieve true excellence. To see the angel in the marble, as Michelangelo described, and then be the one to set him free. That challenge is what moves me daily in my work on functional modern furniture.
Defined by clean, simple, elegant lines, the goal with each of my pieces is to create something unique that has both the gravity to define a space and the natural beauty to fit within a thoughtfully curated one. Almost all of my work is made from locally salvaged urban trees. Working with urban wood and sustainably harvested material is a deeply personal moral choice in my process. I am passionate about leaving objects behind that not only have their own creation stories, but whose materials have origin stories as well. Stories that begin in the same earth where we will all, one day, return to start the cycle of creation anew. I believe that connection brings a soulful resonance and unique legacy to each piece; one that also unifies it with others under the canopy of common purpose.
When a tree can no longer stand in its truest form, I endeavor to turn it into something beautiful and everlasting that can stand in its place. These works are a collaboration between that idea, those felled trees, and my hands. They have crossed that same bridge from death to life on a journey toward what I believe is their truest expression. I know my work will not fit everyone’s aesthetic sensibilities. But it is my sincere hope that when someone encounters it, it compels them to stop and to take notice, and to move them towards the realization that something special happened here, something thoughtful, purposeful, eternal.
Joseph G. La Macchia