Serious Play

Judson Beaumont and the Straight Line Designs furniture factory.

by Asa Christiana
pages 28-32

When I think of Judson Beaumont I can’t help thinking of Willie Wonka – the original Wonka, from Roald Dahl’s matchless tales. Small in stature with boundless energy, both inhabit a magical factory with a small army of dedicated helpers. Endlessly curious and constantly creating, they whip up whimsical confections that delight kids (and kids at heart) worldwide.

Where Wonka has the Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight, Beaumont has furniture that comes alive – clocks with attitude, cabinets that melt and explode, tables that lift a leg and pee (sort of).

Some pieces are expressly for kids, such as the airport play zones he designs or the entire children’s library he created for Princeton University, which includes no tables or chairs. Others, like his iconic Little Black (or Red) Dresser, a dress-shaped chest of drawers that hangs on an closet rod, are for the rest of us. A staggering amount of work has emerged from the loading dock of his graffiti-covered factory building in Vancouver, B.C. – plenty of repeats and command performances to be sure, but just as many one-offs and weird experiments.

Unlike the fictional chocolatier, however, Beaumont is happy to venture past the walls of his compound. Invited to a Hong Kong mall for a 2013 tribute, he sat for TV interviews and a performance by dancing children dressed like his furniture. He travels widely as a guest speaker and works long hours in faraway places to supervise installations, including the 200′-long wall mural he hung inside a Disney cruise ship, dry-docked in Spain.

Blog: Visit Beaumont’s website to see more of his playful work and read more about his process and business.
Article: Read two other articles from out “Great Workshops” series, about the Modernica workshop in Los Angeles, Calif., and Country Workshops in western North Carolina.
Video: Watch interviews with other woodworking greats, including Frank Klausz, Wendell Castle, Toshio Odate and Garry Knox Bennett.

From the February 2018 issue