The Great Jere Osgood
The studio furniture making world lost a giant recently.
Jere Osgood, who worked in New Hampshire, died recently.
Osgood, born in 1936, spent many decades making some of the most beautiful pieces of furniture I’ve ever seen.
Much was said when Sam Maloof and James Krenov passed away in 2009, which was understandable. They both brought the world of studio furniture making into the mainstream. Maloof’s shapely rockers were fawned over by woodworkers, U.S. presidents (both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan owned Maloof rockers) and everyone in between. The style that Maloof popularized is now one that many woodworkers have on their workshop bucket list.
Krenov brought a passion for studio furniture making to America about 50 years ago, when he started working at the College of the Redwoods in California. Quickly, his passionate approach to details like proportion and grain made him a woodworking cult leader. He later wrote many books about the intricacies of the craft of woodworking and inspired countless people along the way to either take up furniture making or to further refine their approach to design and making.
In his New Hampshire shop.
I hope I don’t get hate mail for saying this, but both Maloof’s and Krenov’s work were not overly motivational for me. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed every one of Krenov’s books after I graduated college and was trying to find a direction for my work. His words spoke to me and guided some of my designs. But his work, while quite nice, never really grabbed my attention in a serious way. And while Maloof’s rocking chairs are attractive, I was never quite sure why collectors paid such incredible sums for one of them. They aren’t easy to build and I’m sure they’re comfortable, but I just didn’t get it.
When it came to design, I thought Jere Osgood was on another level when compared with not only Maloof and Krenov, but many of the other greats. I found the curves he used in his work almost mesmerizing, and the technical skills he had make me scratch my head in amazement. He came up with many unique designs that were absolute works of art. It’s hard to describe beauty, but I just find myself often saying “Wow” when looking at Osgood’s body of work.
You can read Jere’s biography here.
Osgood went to architecture school, but dropped out after a couple years to pursue his interests in furniture making at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. While there, he was taught by the late Tage Frid, a Danish-born woodworker and teacher who popularized mid-century modern furniture design and fabrication in America and was an influential instructor. After graduating from the institute Osgood studied for a year in Denmark.
Teacher and maker
Although it’s his work that I enjoy seeing, Osgood also taught a lot of high-profile makers along the way. He was an instructor at the Rochester Institute of Technology for three years before moving to Boston to help start the famous “Program in Artisanry” at Boston University with Alphonse Mattia and Dan Jackson.
When it came to the pieces Osgood produced, that’s where the fun starts.
You can learn a bit more about Osgood’s career in this link to David Savage’s website. Savage is a maker and teacher in the U.K.
Osgood made a lot of desks. Most of them included a shell form and opened to reveal a beautiful interior. He perfected a double axis rotation, so that when the door of one of his desks was opened it tipped into another rotation so it could bypass the non-movable section of the desk.
Shelled Form Desk
Here’s a closed desk Osgood made. He spent a lot of time getting the ends of the staves just right.
A Different Twist
Although this desk uses a slightly different mechanism to open and close the front, the overall piece is very striking.
Here’s the same desk from above, but opened. Osgood said, “It’s a piece where if it’s open people want to see it closed. If it’s closed people want to see it open.”
A table made by Osgood, complete with drawer and flowing apron.