Conversation with A Wood Master

Published in Tropicana Magazine, Nov/Dec 2019

Legendary wood artisan, Thomas Hucker shares why he chose furniture as a vehicle for artistic expression and his one of a kind collaboration with luxe wood expert LUMBERmart 

Unabashedly original and brilliant, Thomas Hucker’s furniture designs are imbued with an artistic flair like no other where each unique masterpieces have been made to perfection for discerning clients. The renowned furniture designer and master woodworker has many of his work in permanent collections in New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, as well as art galleries and museums across the United States and Europe. 

Deeply influenced by traditional Japanese aesthetics and contemporary Italian design thinking while also drawing extensively on classical furniture designs, the New Jersey-based furniture designer deftly fuses abstraction and utilitarianism in a recent limited edition collection with LUMBERmart, a premiere bespoke wood furniture and timber architectural solutions provider. 

In this first designer collaboration, Thomas was tasked in developing four signature pieces for the collection known as Backley x Thomas Hucker by LUMBERmart. 

How It All Started 

Says Thomas, “I was in touch with Charles Lee, (Managing Director of LUMBERmart) before I came over and we were sending photographs and drawings to each other. It was a mutual selection of pieces that have been done before that he liked, although, the side table is a new piece, it was designed for this collection here. There were a few adjustments made on improvement as well as with using the timber selection here at LUMBERmart. We were also looking for pieces that had gotten a response within the United States. The chairs are in a collection in a museum right outside Boston and the sideboards have always been one of my favourite pieces.” 

“Our collaboration began three years ago, and from the moment we started talking about furniture making, I knew that Thomas’s skilled craftsmanship and masterful understanding of materials would be the start of something magical,” says Charles. 

A Stunning Collection 

There are basically three groups in furniture so there are tables, seatings and casework, or as Thomas calls it, cabinetry, so he wanted to have one piece representing each of those categories. “I didn’t want to come in with three chairs or three tables, I wanted to have that diversity represented.” 

And the collection is stunning. The Backley x Thomas Hucker Collection by LUMBERmart revels in its fine craftsmanship, premium wood species and functional aesthetic with the four signature pieces individually crafted and personally signed by Thomas himself. 

Out of the four, three are a reinterpretation of his spectacular earlier works. The first piece is the Akiko side chair, with its curvy and elegant silhouette, provides ample support and backrest. Next, the Drummond side table, a complement to the Akiko chair, has sleek angled lines and a shelf bottom which looks suspended in mid-air. Finally, the impressive Credenza console table, with its curved drawers, exudes an ethereal air with its weightless and floating appearance. 

For the pieces that I create, I want the material that I’m working with to shine and that each piece to work because functionality matters to me. 

From West to East 

Pennsylvania-born Thomas, whose repertoire spans from New York to Milan, is currently one of the world’s top 25 furniture designers. He started his training as a two-year apprentice to Leonord Hilgner, a traditionally trained German cabinetmaker, before attending four summer sessions in Penland School of Crafts under the tutelage of top-notch woodworkers such as the American Craft Council (ACC) Gold Medalist, the illustrious Sam Maloof, and ACC Fellow Tage Frid. 

In 1976, he furthered his studies by enrolling in Boston University’s Program in Artisanry where he worked closely with craftsman extraordinaire, Jere Osgood. It was here that he cultivated a strong interest in Japanese aesthetic by taking classes at the Urasenke School of Japanese Tea Ceremony. His pursuit in all things Japanese continued after he obtained a Fulbright scholarship for a residency at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts. 

 Soon after, he went to the prestigious design school, Domus Academy in Milan to study product design. Presently, his acclaimed pieces are in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 

When asked on what continues to inspire him to do what he does, Thomas shares that he is continuously drawn the material that he works with. “For the pieces that I create, I want the material that I work with to shine and that each piece to work because functionality matters to me.” 

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