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Popular Woodworking contributor David Mathias wraps up his coverage of Craftsman Weekend in Pasadena, California.

Wednesday October 24

I planned my trip to Craftsman Weekend for about a year and a half.  That creates a lot of anticipation and expectations.  And expectations sometimes lead to disappointment.  Not so for this trip. It has exceeded every expectation.  By far.  About the only way it could be better would be to win the lottery.  And I haven’t yet checked my numbers.  The success of my trip is due, in no small measure, to my friend Tom Moore.  Tom did a lot of legwork to make sure that we were able to maximize the Greene & Greene content of my time in Pasadena.  He and his wife Jenny even opened their home to me for several nights.  By the way, Tom and I didn’t meet in person until last week.

Many times, on my blog and in this space, I’ve mentioned the Greene-style-furniture group on Yahoo.  Founded by Darrell Peart, the group includes a who’s who of Greene & Greene luminaries.  Tom and I “met” there and became good friends.  Spending time with Tom and a number of other guys from the group contributed significantly to the memories. On the Gamble house Details & Joinery tour, today’s main attraction, members of that forum, including Tom, Darrell and Gary Hall, Peter Hall’s grandson, dominated the group.

David Mathias & Darrell Peart are on the right in the front row. Jim Ipekjian is trying to hide on the left in the back.

A regular tour of the Gamble house is a wonderful experience.  For a furniture maker it is also a torment.  At every turn there is another beautiful piece, exquisitely crafted.  The natural urge of a woodworker is to touch and examine, to try to unlock the secrets of construction and finish.  All of these acts are forbidden and for good reason.  As Bobbi Mapstone, PR Director for the house, points out, if all 30,000 annual visitors were allowed to touch the furniture it would be damaged.  At the very least the finish would wear away.  So, no touching.  Understandable but torturous.  The Details & Joinery tour goes a long way toward relieving our suffering.

Leading the Details & Joinery tours is Jim Ipekjian.  Jim is probably the world’s foremost expert on and craftsman of, Greene & Greene furniture. Having now seen some of his pieces, I don’t think I could distinguish them from the originals.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, Jim is a generous, friendly man happy to share his knowledge with others.  Participants on a D&J tour are not allowed to touch the furniture (or much else). But Jim is.  Want to see the undersides of drawers? (I did) Ask Jim to remove it.  Want to know how the upstairs hall closet doors open? (It’s really cool) Ask Jim to open one. Want to see the inside of the chiffonier? (We all did) Ask Jim to open it. I don’t think he refused a single request.  And there are other ways to unlock secrets.  After this tour the floors of the house are spotless , we spent a lot of time sliding around on our backs shining flashlights under the furniture.  This is THE tour for Greene & Greene furniture fanatics.  I would gladly have paid to stay on that ride for a second round.

One interesting nugget, among many, from the tour: the indexing pins between the two halves of the dining room table are highly polished ebony.  I suspect that only the servants ever saw that detail yet the Greenes and Halls put a lot of effort into it.

In a week like I just had, it would be very difficult to choose a favorite moment or event.  And I’m not one for making such choices.  I don’t have a favorite song or a favorite food.  If I were to try to choose a favorite event, however, the last one of the week would certainly be a candidate.  I was given special permission to take photographs inside the Gamble house for an upcoming project.  It was a privilege I will never forget.  My only regret is that I am not a better photographer.  We’ve all seen interior photos by Alexander Vertikoff and Marvin Rand, photographers with great talent and experience.  I have neither but think that I was able to capture something usable.  It was an amazing experience.  My sincere thanks to the staff of the Gamble house for the opportunity.

During this past week I joked that I could never again attend Craftsman Weekend because no subsequent trip could meet the high standard of this one.  Of course, given the chance I’d go in a heartbeat.  Next year is the Gamble house centennial.  Hmmm…¦

–David Mathias

Thanks again to David for sharing his trip. Look forward to an article by David next spring about the construction of a Greene & Greene style project.

–Bob Lang

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Showing 2 comments
  • David Mathias

    Alan, take that tour if at all possible. It is fantastic.


  • Alan

    Oh this looks most excellent, I am jealous! I just got a call back from one of the women who mentioned the "Details and Joinery" tour that Jim Ipekjian hosts. They have the 2008 schedule posted at this link:


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