I can promise your jaw will drop when you see the poetic works of Joseph Walsh in person. Walsh is an Irish genius who runs a spectacular creative furniture and sculptural studio from his family farm in West Cork, Ireland.
Walsh, a self-taught woodworker, designer and visionary, is one of the most creative makers that I have met. His specialty is building bent-wood pieces: standalone furniture, wall pieces and free-form sculpture. I met him this week at the American Irish Historical Society in New York at his exhibit (on display until May 24th) and had a rare opportunity to learn about his work.
Walsh manages to re-chart the conceptual and structural boundaries of lumber (and recently of other materials including resin and stone). In his work, he stretches and challenges the properties of wood and takes it to places where no craftsperson has gone before. He uses bent lamination, where thin layers of mostly ash, oak, walnut and elm, are glued together in a meticulous regime along a course that he dictates. The laminated wood strands curve and twist, intersect and join, rise and fall in the most graceful ways. His pieces evoke dynamic, organic and sublime forms that flow naturally, swirl and ascend, inspiring the viewers and uplifting their spirit.
To achieve his vision, Walsh employs 24 employees; many of them are accomplished artisans from all over the world. His projects begin with sketches, then advance through a series of work models, computer evaluations, joinery studies and full-scale sections of the proposed pieces that are put to strenuous lab tests before the OK to begin production is given.
After the show, I attended a panel discussion about Walsh’s work at the New York School of Interior Design, which was organized by my friend Daniella Ohad. The panelists argued that Walsh’s achievements earned him an equal place alongside Eileen Gray, Ireland’s most celebrated designer. The bounty of praises that Walsh received from the moderator, Ohad, and the panelists, Jennifer Goff (curator of furniture, silver, and the Eileen Gray Collection at the National Museum of Ireland), and Glenn Adamson (senior scholar at the Yale Center for British Art, and editor-at-large of The Magazine Antiques), was remarkable. But after seeing Walsh’s work, his processes and learning about his techniques, I can say that he deserves all this praises and more.
Although he is one of the design stars of our time and without a doubt for years to come (the man is only 38 years old!), he is a very modest soft-spoken and generous guy. Walsh was happy to be transparent about the reality and challenges of both the work and the business. He even offered tea to the guests who visited the exhibit.
If you happen to be in NYC this May, you must check out Walsh’s show. You will be in awe, you will smile and you will be charged with lots of creative energy that will surely nourish your work for years to come.
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Sunday: 12pm – 5pm
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