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News-Antique.com - Oct 01,2007 - Santa Fe, Oct. 1, 2007--Inspiration comes from unexpected places. One night shortly after placing a large chunk of wood on the fire, Wharton Esherick saw a figure emerging in the wood just as the flames engulfed it.
He quickly pulled the charred piece out of the fire and headed for his woodworking shop. There he carved the figure he saw in the flames. It was his daughter. Wandering through nearby forests he saw ever larger "images" in the living trunks and limbs of huge trees around him which he also carved.
As a craftsman, Esherick spent most of his career working in relative isolation. There was something about silence, the lack of distraction and his own single-mindedness that enabled Esherick to take woodworking to a new level.
Born in 1887, Esherick lived a few miles from Rose Valley, Pa., a village established at the-turn-of-the century as a utopian community of Arts and Crafts furniture makers. Trained as a traditional painter, Esherick shifted to woodworking in 1924 after his hopes of being recognized as a painter failed.
Ultimately, it was furniture design that brought Esherick the attention he sought. His chairs and tables were sleek, sturdy and practical. Another source of inspiration for Esherick was the teachings of Henry David Thoreau. For most of his adult life, the woodworker kept a copy of Thoreau's book, "Walden" on his bedside table.
Thoreau’s philosophy held that real freedom and peace of mind could only be found in simplicity and a life based on honest, meaningful work, and respect for the natural world. Esherick took Thoreau’s message to heart.
By the late-1920s mass production had all but taken over the marketplace and interest in Esherick’s work diminished. He would wait another 40 years for things to come full circle. In the late-1960s people rediscovered fine hand crafted furniture and Esherick was a leading force in the revival.
On April 21 & 22, John Sollo and Dave Rago featured several Esherick pieces in their 20th Century Modern auction held in Lambertville, N.J. An Esherick bench brought $132,000.
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