Canadian Woodworking

Michael Hurwitz’s favourites (who’s one of my favourites)

Author: Rob Brown
Lantern Cabinet

Michael Hurwitz talks about his favourite pieces of woodwork.

I shared iconic Canadian studio furniture maker Gord Peteran’s favourite pieces with our readers on February 25. You can read it here.

I got very excited when Gord mentioned Michael Hurwitz as the artist behind his favourite internationally made piece, as this meant I had a great excuse to contact him. Hurwitz has been a maker I’ve looked up to for years. His visually simple mix of flowing curves and Japanese-inspired design is what I try to bring to my work, and only dream of becoming a master of design and fabrication like Hurwitz. Using not only different materials, but also adding texture to wood, is something I enjoy doing.

Michael Hurwitz is an American studio furniture maker who works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s been crafting beautiful pieces since 1979, when he graduated with a BFA from Boston University’s Program in Artisanry. Hurwitz has had a number of solo gallery exhibitions, including at The Peter Joseph Gallery and Pritam and Eames. His work is included in The Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, Massachusetts; The Smithsonian Institute, in Washington, D.C.; and the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hurwitz is a leader in the studio furniture world and has inspired many other designers and makers over the years.

You can learn more about Hurwitz’s work at MichaelHurwitzFurniture.com.

What is the piece you’ve made that you’re most proud of?

Hurwitz: My recent “Lantern Cabinet” felt like a successful resolution. I had hoped to make a large cabinet that would appear to be lightweight, hence the choice and scale of materials to allow the transfer of light, as well as the “arms folded and at rest” gesture of the base, which contributed to the illusion of weightlessness. I also wanted the detail of the door grill and the rosettes to draw the viewer closer, and then closer again. It did what I hoped it would do, and while building it I felt like it drew from everything I know about making furniture.

What Canadian-made piece by another artist do you like the most?

Hurwitz: Peter Pierobon’s “Driftwood Dream” jewelry box is absolutely sublime. Peter has always been a master of realizing the power of simplicity and the importance of the material itself, and this piece manifests both of those qualities in a quiet and powerful way. The weathered perch with its accentuated and turbulent grain makes for a beautiful backdrop for the simple box, and reminds us of the true nature of the material.

What internationally made piece of furniture do you like the most?

Hurwitz: When I first saw Shiro Kuramata’s “Miss Blanche,” it knocked the wind out of me. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t want to suspend reality– perhaps indefinitely– and float on a bed of roses? But since he doesn’t come from a woodworking tradition, my thoughts go to Peder Moos and his boat-shaped bed. This piece pre-dates Wendell Castle’s stack-laminated work by at least 20 years, and manages to project an aura of delicacy rare for pieces centered on use of that technique. But since he’s dead– and difficult to interview– I will focus on the work of Toshio Tokunaga, who is currently having a show at Ippodo Gallery in New York. In particular, his piece “Crochet Chair” is another sublime exercise in apparent simplicity and subtle interplay of surfaces, except with the added twist of the asymmetrical terminations of the crest rail.

Lantern Cabinet
Michael Hurwitz’s goal was to create a large cabinet that looked light.

Lantern Cabinet

Lantern Cabinet Door Detail
This detailed image of the doors shows how intricate the doors are. It would be impossible to not take a very close look if you saw this piece in person.

Lantern Cabinet Door Detail

Driftwood Dream
This box, made by Canadian artist Peter Pierobon, is one of Hurwitz’s favourites.

Driftwood Dream

Driftwood Dream, Open
Small trays can be removed from Pierobo’s box.

Driftwood Dream, Open

Miss Blanche
This chair was made by Shiro Kuramata, a Japanese designer who passed away in 1991.

Miss Blanche

Boat-Shaped Bed
Peder Moos built this boat-shaped bed using a stacked lamination technique popularized by Wendle Castle. Peder made this bed about 20 years before Castle started to popularize the technique.

Boat-Shaped Bed

Boat-Shaped Bed
You can clearly see the stacked lamination technique Moos used to build this piece.

Boat-Shaped Bed closeup

Crochet Chair
Japanese artist Toshio Tokunaga made this chair in 1952.

Crochet Chair

Crochet Chair Detail
The approach to end the crest rail in this chair in different ways on the left and right sides is unique.

Crochet Chair Detail

Twelve-Leaf Resin Table
One of my favourite pieces by Hurwitz.

Twelve-Leaf Resin Table

Twelve-Leaf Resin Table, Detail
Epoxy resin has been recently used by many makers to create river tables, but Hurwitz knew the value of this material years ago.

Twelve-Leaf Resin Table, Detail

Bubinga Bench with Leather Seat
Built in 1987, the seat’s flowing curves are what draw me to it.

Bubinga Bench with Leather Seat

Bubinga Bench with Leather Seat, Detail
This bench by Hurwitz looks more beautiful the closer you look.

Bubinga Bench with Leather Seat, Detail

Demilune Table
One of his more recent pieces, this table has a certain grace about it.

Demilune Table

Tea Cup Desk
From Hurwitz: “This was made in1994, as an antithesis to the ‘power desk’ that dominated the American business arena at the time. These were desks that were designed in hopes of intimidating a potential business associate. I had recently returned from six months in Kyoto, where there was the pleasant custom of offering tea to guests, whether they were there for business or pleasure. I wanted to give dimension to that contrasting experience.”

tea cup desk

Chest on Trees
The texture on this piece, which was made in 1985, was produced when Hurwitz purposefully set a few teeth on a bandsaw improperly. The result was a surface that was textured in a pattern. The mahogany this chest is made from was painted.

Chest on Trees


Published:
Last modified: May 15, 2022

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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