Joseph Walsh: Genius Furniture Maker and Artist, Now on Display in New York City – Part 2

One of the most impressive pieces of furniture in the show (read part one of my story here) is a tall, pod-like cabinet that was commissioned by a wrist-watch collector. To house the collection, Joseph built a stacked cluster of drawers that pivot out on arms of bronze and stainless steel. It is not surprising that the drawer mechanism is as beautiful as the piece itself. The watch trays are lined with pear wood and individually sculptured to nest each watch.

Walsh was recently commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to build 24 dining chairs. In the exhibit, you can view the mockups, prototypes and completed pieces. The extensive design and mockup process was used to help illustrate the project to the clients and the design team for the Duke and Duchess. A scale model of the grand dining hall was built, which includes a loose representation of the antique dining table and the future chairs. Each walnut chair is a one of a kind piece with a unique backrest design.

Walsh strives to optimize his designs to achieve the most elegant and lean forms possible, his process is extensive and the show is a grand display of it.

One of his recent projects, which received a detailed documentation in this exhibit, is a newly completed sculpture for the National Gallery of Ireland. A fluid band of ash lamination climbs high into the air in a form that, at least to me, resonates with imagery of a Celtic harp. One of the impressive objects related to this piece, on display in the exhibit too, is a full-scale study and testing of the base. Walsh told me that in cases of a newly developed form, or when his pieces will have to endure significant structural demands, he chooses to build true to scale sections of the pieces and then has engineers test them. This is required because the current data on bent lamination available in engineering text books is incomplete, sometimes too general or includes redundancies and understandable factors of safety that may not be relevant to the techniques and high-end materials that he uses. In many cases, the current data reflect tests done on laminating that had knots, cracks and other imperfections common to average construction material.  But, when using first grade, hand picked, straight grain wood like ash, a laminated object can excel in the strength test up to five times more than indicted in the literature.

Joseph Walsh builds detailed models for all his projects. It helps him, his design team and the clients realize the scale, proportions, colors and shapes of the proposed piece.

Below you can find pictures of his studio, some process pictures and images of complete pieces that are not included in the current show. The show closes on the 24th, so if you happen to visit NYC, carve out some time to drop by and see it. You will not regret it.

Joseph Walsh’s show takes place at The American Irish Historical Society, 991 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

The Show ends on May 24th.

Free Admission

Opening hours:

Wednesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Sunday: 12pm – 5pm

(You may need to ring the bell if the door is not responding.)

– Yoav Liberman

Feature Articles, PWM Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs
Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.

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