In our December issue, our “Great Workshops” feature pays a visit to the Pasadena, California workshop of James Ipekjian. James has spent most of his career restoring and reproducing the work of architects Charles & Henry Greene. Here is a brief excerpt from the article:
James Ipekjian didn’t set out to become an expert on reproducing the early 20th-century furniture designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene, and he can’t really explain how he got to be where he is today. “If there were a contest for the luckiest woodworker on the planet” he says, “I don’t know if I’d win , but I think I’d be one of the finalists.”
This marvelous inlay work is typical of Greene & Greene furniture, and of Ipekjian’s reproductions.
Today, he works alone in a comfortably cluttered but remarkably well-equipped shop located near the ultimate bungalows built by the Greenes in Pasadena, Calif. In the 1970s, Ipekjian was working as a model maker in the aerospace industry, and building projects from Popular Mechanics out of plywood in his garage. Bitten by the woodworking bug, he wondered if he could possibly make a living working with wood. A commission for an 18th-century highboy, as well as dissatisfaction with his job, led him to give it a try.
Ipekjian’s skill and attention to detail have brought him to a place that most woodworkers only dream about. He works in a pleasant space, at a comfortable pace, recreating some of the finest furniture ever made. His reputation keeps him busy. “If everything I have talked with people about comes through, I’ll be busy for the next three or four years. I’m comfortable, but still I can’t keep from worrying about what I’ll do after that,” he says.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, Ipekjian doesn’t have any plans at this point to teach or write about his work, “I’m too busy really doing the work. I work a lot of hours because it’s fun, and I love what I do.”
You’ll want to read the entire article, and if you’re planning a trip to Southern California in the next year, you might want to schedule around some special tours of the Gamble house, the only Greene & Greene home open to the public on a regular basis.
The regular tour of the Gamble house is a lot of fun, but for serious woodworkers it’s way too short and hurried. You can always tell the woodworkers on the tour because they are lagging behind and crawling around to look under the furniture.
In 2007 Jim Ipekjian will be conducting some special tours that will be much longer than the standard tour, and will be from a woodworker’s perspective. The exact dates have not been announced yet, but this will be an incredible opportunity to see one of the finest examples of woodworking on the planet, guided by one of the most accomplished woodworker’s on the planet.
In our next issue, we will have not one, but two articles on Greene and Greene furniture, so stay tuned for the kind of woodworking information you won’t see in any other magazine.