The State has recognized 13 Hoosier furniture makers as Indiana Artisans. From Switzerland, Floyd and Perry counties, down along the Ohio River, up to White, Carroll, Howard and Madison counties, the work of the 13 Artisans represents a wide variety of furniture styles. To help better define Indiana by its storied history, and current exceptional work, in furniture making, the group formed the Furniture Guild of Indiana Artisans in 2014.
In May, 2015, members mounted an exhibition of their work at the Judge Stone House, an historic Noblesville home one block south of the Courthouse Square, believed to be the oldest remaining residence in town, and part of the Nickel Plate Arts campus.
The exhibition featured the work of six Indiana Artisan furniture makers — George Abiad, of Abiad Woodworking, in Anderson; Greg Adams, of Willow by Greg Adams, in Lapel; Pete Baxter, of Pete Baxter Woodworks, in Seymour; Darin Caldwell, of Darin Caldwell Design, in Tell City; Andy Cole, of Cole & Sons, in Russiaville; and Peter Falk, of Falk Wood Studio, in Cutler.
Indianapolis-based Interior Designer Chip Kalleen, a member of the Indiana Artisan board, accessorized the furniture in the three-room exhibit with work by several Indiana Artisans – fiber and clay wall hangings, rugs, hand-woven baskets, ceramics, glasswork, paintings, and more.
Indiana Artisan is the State’s designation for art and food artisans of the highest caliber. Since 2008, the work of 320 artisans in 63 Indiana counties has been juried and is part of the brand designed to help define the State by its exceptional art and foods. An Indiana Artisan is a Hoosier recognized for careful attention to detail, knowledge of a craft and an entrepreneurial spirit. The talent of each Artisan contributes to Indiana’s reputation for quality work, and the Artisan brand includes glass, wood, fiber, leather, paintings in all genre, drawings, paper, clay, jewelry, sculpture, and more. Foods include wine, specialty cheeses, popcorns, sauces, syrups, jams, breads, fudge, chocolates, candies, brandies, and more.
MEET THE ARTISANS
George Abiad, Anderson
George Abiad’s style of furniture is generally organically shaped and semi-sculptural, featuring intersecting curves that flow from one piece of wood to another. Depending on his client’s wishes, he also builds more traditional furniture featuring tapered legs and raised panel construction, which has more of an Arts and Crafts feel.
After moving from Beirut, Lebanon, to Madison County, Indiana, to attend college 30 years ago, George studied a wide variety of furniture craftsmanship and design. He was fortunate to spend time with the internationally noted furniture maker Sam Maloof in 2005, and in addition to Maloof, George’s style was formed by other outstanding woodworkers such as David Ebner, Wharton Esherick and Wendell Castle.
George holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Anderson University, and he has been a full-time graphic designer and professional photographer since 1990.
Greg Adams, Lapel
Greg Adams’ work is in the style of American handmade rustic willow furniture. He says his specific technique is solidly in the Gypsy style, and he’s honed his craft for more than 30 years.
Greg’s work is quickly made from fresh willow that is most easily worked when fresh. He says he tries not to think about the hours it takes to cut, weave, braid and assemble his work, but rather he focuses on what he calls the range of doability – what the finished piece will look like, how many ways it can be used and how many years it will last.
When rustic willow furniture first was developed, it was constructed by craftsmen for personal use only. The genre gained notoriety when the market expanded to family members and then to commercial interests largely from exposure in roadside sales. The Adirondack styles of the late 1800s filled the “cabins” of the country’s wealthiest families, and those styles live on today in Greg’s work.
Pete Baxter, Seymour
Seymour-based woodworker Pete Baxter uses closed grain hardwoods such as hard maple, cherry, walnut, curly maple, or curly cherry for his Shaker-style chairs which, on average take five to seven days to make. His chairs are in the Mt. Lebanon (NY) Shaker Village style first made in the 1870s.
Brother Robert Wagan standardized Shaker chair-making, giving uniformity to pieces that, while simple, delicate and light in weight, were remarkably durable. Pete’s work is an interpretation of Shaker ladder-back chairs. The largest Shaker rocking chair was a No. 7, and Pete’s No. 8 rocker is a modern adaptation sized for today’s larger adults.
Of all furniture types, the chair likely is the most essential form, and a Shaker philosophy instructs craftsmen not to make anything unless it is both necessary and useful. It goes further to say that if the piece is both necessary and useful, the maker should not hesitate to make it beautiful. In addition to their style, Pete adheres to this Shaker philosophy in his work.
Andy Cole, Russiaville
Indiana Artisan Andy Cole builds heirloom quality furniture with no screws or nails, rather he uses wood-to-wood joinery to create a not only aesthetically pleasing, but what he calls a “brutally strong” product. Russiaville-based Cole & Sons Inc. designs and builds custom furniture, monument and art pieces that integrate concrete, wood, stone, and glass.
After earning a degree in landscape architecture, Andy returned to his woodworking passion, specifically to furniture making with a focus on custom pieces. His work leans toward the natural, incorporating a live edge that is combined with the clean lines of shaker and mission furniture styles. He enjoys mixing materials, creating modern interpretations in timeless forms that allows his furniture to be used for generations and to fit nearly every genre of design.
His work in construction allows Andy to handle materials for most projects from raw form to finished product – gathering trees, for instance, in addition to aiding in and customizing the milling process of logs, seasoning the lumber and milling it to specs. Andy works alongside his dad to create furniture, combining 50 years of experience in integrating woodworking and concrete work. The duo has created their own customized concrete mixes to achieve a variety of characteristics incorporated into each piece, including appearance, texture and weight.
Peter Falk, Cutler
One of Peter Falk’s earliest memories is sitting on the workbench, straddling the vise holding a board he and his brother were carving into a dugout canoe. Those early canoes and airplanes crafted for their GI Joes bore the earmark of Peter’s values in wood art – artwork, refined and carefully designed, for daily use.
Motivated by furniture made by his father, grandfather and both great-great-grandfathers, Peter began creating heritage furniture with the structural strength and integrity, as well as artistic design, to be prized for generations.
A furniture maker introduced him to marquetry, which he incorporates into some of his furniture. An opportunity to work for the master carver Dimitrios Klitsas for five years, in his Boston studio, enabled Peter to further refine his skills. Klitsas taught Peter to “see” and then trained his hands to carve what the mind saw.
Returning to Indiana, Peter launched Falk Wood Studio in rural Carroll County, where he also tends cows, bees and poultry. His surroundings inspire his furniture. With a portable sawmill, he makes use of local wood, going from “tree to table.”