Monday, June 1, 2009

Canadian Fine Furniture by mlh (a few examples)

I have been asked to 'tell a little' about my fine furniture making days ... I suppose a good place to start this 'retrospective' would be to mention the 1996 publication by Carol Soucek King, 'Architects & Designer's Originals'. Frank Gehry, the architect, and I were the only Canadians asked to contribute. Carol was the Fashion Editor at the L.A. Times at the time, and she asked me to supply something for the 'bed' section ...

I had recently completed a commission of a series of children's beds that had hand-carved bed posts - owls & bears. I also did a carved frieze of butterflies & dragonflies for the little girl ...

The following image was one of my first forays into 'decoratively painted' furniture ... a Canadian goose on the back panel hovering over a 'nest of eggs'... Last heard, this piece is now in a collection in Portland, Oregan.

I was often asked to reproduce 'period items' to fit into existing decor. The next piece is 'Quebec' infleunced, and 'distressed' to lend a 'rustic' feel. The carving in the centre is unique. (Sorry for the lousy photo, but that's all I've got of this item now ... )

The next piece was one of my favourites. I use to spend a great deal of time up-north. That 'atmosphere' greatly influenced my choices about what I wanted to amplify in my constructions. The feathers on the drawers and the pine tree silhouette on the cupboard (and copper star insets) where inlaid into the oak using 'marquetry', a wood-working technique near extinction in North America today ... (Again, please excuse the crummy 'shaky' photo, but this is the only image I've got of the piece in it's 'unfinished' state.... )


As time went along I refined these 'natural motifs' and emphasized the intricate delicacy of the wood grain in conjunction with the power of the imagery. In the following instance, a bulrush bouquet highlights this tiger maple & rosewood 'Ladies Dresser' ... The 'Shaker-style' drawer pulls were turned in ebony.

Bigger & better commissions started to come in. The next image shows details from a 14 foot dining table (with 16 complimentary sabre leg dining chairs). The motif I choose for this commission was the trillium, provincial flower for Ontario. The mahogany edging on the table was carved in a recurring trillium pattern and the adjacent trillium marquetry inset was used on the back of all the chairs.

Then the coup de grace, 'The Four Canadian Fireside Chairs'. A fantastic commission, I had carte blanche to fulfill this clients ambitions of grace & grandeur. I focused on the native legend of Sedna, goddess of the North Seas, and imaginatively carved her into the walnut legs of each of the chairs. Then I designed intricate marquetry panels for the back of each chair to represent a season.

Copper was an early trading material from the North. I gilded the two armchairs in copper.

And covered the two side chairs in premium dear hide, retrieved from a hunter near Barrie ... This is the 'autumn chair'. Pheasant lifting off over cornfields under a setting sun ... beneath a recurring image of criss-crossed dear antlers ...



Next up, I had the opportunity to do some speculative work for a gallery show. What follows is the 'Wolf Settee Courting Bench'. A kind of whimsical piece, it sort of epitomizes to me, the EARLY stages of romance where 'space' is kind of critical to romantic evolution ... (The settee is 7 feet long ... ). The bracing beneath the seat is extensive and intricately turned. Beautiful Honduras mahogany, turns like butter ...


Note the wolf head on the settee arms ...

Likely my most ambitious piece, 'Thee Mirror', inspired by my many jaunts to the sea & the ever present majestic beauty of the natural world, I tried to fuse it all into one magnificient whole ... I must have done ok, cuz this piece won First Prize at the International Woodworking Show at the Canadian National Exhbition in 1989, beating out English, French and Italian works. I took home the ribbon with Karl Luber, who did the marquetry work on this item.

Another speculative piece, the following pedestals (one shown of a matching pair) were inspired by the Temagami Provincial Park area in north-eastern Ontario. There was ALOT of buzz at the time about the proposed 'clear cut' logging in the park area ... I wanted to create something that documented that 'DECISION' for future generations. I used maple cones as a recurring motif (see how they drop from the top) and then enfused the slanting sides with a kind of Elizabethan style 'relief' carving. There is something very 'in tune' with Nature that emerged in the Elizabethan period, that hasn't been replicated since. (The Georgian period, though CLOSE, lacked a sense of 'stillness'.) That's a very subjective interpretation I know, but it's how I both 'sense' and 'interpret' things ... . These pedestals were shaped from solid walnut, and now reside with a Toronto collector ...
Here's an example of an earlier piece, a drop-front CD player, using a signature triple-beaded edging detail of layered ebony & padauk ... The base wood is lovely pear and the inserts were made with mahogany 'flame' vaneer. This item was 'french polished' in the 'old school' manner ... thus that lovely patina. Complimentary sofa side tables were added to this commission at a later date.

Again, kind of a fun one, a copper diningroom table. The client was a frequent flyer & car racing enthusiast. He liked 'bolted' metal things ... I obliged with this copper studded copper hammered sheet metal table top ...


Spanning a 15 year period, from 1984 to 2000, I think I produced near 300 items. It was wonderful time, and I don't regret one bit of it. Though, truth be told, it is not a very efficient way to 'make a living'... especially at the level I was producing things ... Fun stuff though and feels like another era now. I do retain drawings of items I would LIKE to make ... like the Nunavut Sideboard, and the Caribou dining table ... but, sigh, I guess those exquisite items will just have to WAIT ...

I may add more items to this list as I find other photos ...

And, for the record, I LEARNED about the fundamentals of FINE wood-working from my late father, Luther Janna Holton. I apprenticed with him. And then, went out on my own ...


.... just found this above image taken at the Carnegie Gallery: me - plus some of dad's work including a very attractive mahogany drop-front desk replete with 'secret compartments', a true-to-form 'Chippendale' mirror with gilding highlights, & a Louis XIV style chair designed & made for 'larger North Americans' by my late father ... Luther Janna Holton, the second ...

.... Photo supplied by Willa W., in 2015. Taken sometime in the early 2000's. MLH perched on her 'Stargazer Garden Bench', designed and licensed to Canadian manufacturer in mid 1990s.  Made in the Philippines, of iroko wood, a dense water-resistant hardwood that changes to a warm gray over time ... Sold throughout North America. A popular item.

UPDATE: January 2017 - Well this is kind of fun. Was roaming around the net and stumbled on the desk & credenza that I designed for Kaufman Furniture of Collingwood, Canada, the 'Signature Series', several decades ago. It was selling on an obscure 'estate liquidation' site. Both sold for the grand sum of $630. Ouch, hurts, (after 43 bids, starting at $1!) - (What a STEAL!!! Seriously!) - Still, very interesting to view the images - and to remember that job. I used mahogany vaneer on solid maple, with 'shaker-style' ebony pulls. Kaufman did a good job crafting my design. It still looks pretty good: contemporary and kind of timeless ... if I say so myself.

Desk & Credenza, Designed by M.L.Holton. Built by Kaufman of Collingwood, Canada.

Details from Desk & Credenza designed by Margaret Lindsay.Holton, Canada






Substantiating paperwork, including 'Certificate of Authenticity', promo sample and letter from Prez of Kaufman.

(Website for that sale - Everything But the House - estate liquidators )
UPDATE: July 2017 - stumbled on this promotional piece that I designed for Dad when we were working together ... the red 'logo' beneath the chair, was, in fact, his signet ring. We did stamp a few of his better items with it.

No comments: