Ruby Pear is a Seattle woodworking shop keeping the studio furniture tradition alive. The shop motto is "beautiful, thoughtful, handmade", and I keep those words in mind at every step of the process, from design to delivery.
I can remember the moment when I realized that I would become a woodworker: I was sitting in the fireside lounge of a local hotel, enjoying a book and a cocktail. Or at least, I was supposed to be enjoying a book... but instead, I was staring at the room's gorgeous wood paneling, and I was in love. I loved the warmth and the color, the soft transitions, the hard edges, the art and craft that had gone into surrounding the room with subtle confidence. Instead of reading the pages of the book, I was reading the lines and grain of decades-old mahogany.
It was then that I realized: I love wood; I should be a woodworker.
THE WOOD IS BEAUTIFUL
That moment was the seed of a guiding philosophy for my work: wood is beautiful. This probably sounds obvious coming from a woodworker. But the work I do is there to support the inherent beauty in each plank that crosses my bench. As the great craftsman George Nakashima said: “Each tree, every part of each tree, has only one perfect use.” Our jobs, as stewards of this material, is to find it.
BEAUTIFUL IS ENOUGH
As I think about the furniture I make, and the designs I create, it is easy to get consumed by the process of design. I want to create unique, inventive designs. To make my mark on the world I need to be different, and I push my designs to support this challenge. I feel like I need to create a new beauty.
But…but the wood is already beautiful. Each time I step back and remind myself to look at the beauty that is already there. I don’t need to complicate the form, or dazzle with detail.
The wood is beautiful. Beautiful is enough.
The Studio Craft movement emerged in the early 20th century as a response to the industrialization of the 19th century. At its core, it seeks to bring together the separate roles of "artist" and "craftsperson". It is not a specific style, but instead a philosophy that merges heart and hand and mind in the pursuit of well-designed, well-crafted, well-loved objects. I'm proud to follow in the footsteps of many great studio woodworkers, and to work in a wider community of modern studio furniture makers.
In the shop, being thoughtful means listening to the long traditions of my craft. I'm a steward of a philosophy that is larger than me. So I respect my clients, I respect my materials, and I balance the labor and the love of the work I do. And I understand that ultimately it is the work I create that will speak the loudest.
Outside the shop, I work to build community with furniture builders and others working in the studio craft movement. I invite the public in, through teaching and advocacy. My business is not just about selling furniture; it is ultimately about selling the idea that what you buy matters.
Let's be clear: I definitely use lots of power tools in the shop, as well as chisels, hand planes, and hand saws. "Handmade" doesn't mean I don't use electricity; it means that my hand is involved in the product at every stage of the process. From selecting the individual boards to joinery, sanding, and finishing -- my hands are on the wood. I'm one person, paying attention to both the individual parts and the whole they are going to create.
I'm not anti-automation, and one day I'll invest in a CNC machine. But there is a danger in doing so: the designer can start to treat the wood as a formless lump, ready to have a design stamped on it. But my philosophy is that every piece of wood is unique, and has its own story to tell. Instead of the wood responding to me, I want to respond to the wood.
Because, remember: the wood is beautiful, and beautiful is enough.