Most furniture designers – small custom shops or factories – let the rectilinear shape of the boards and power tools dictate design. So that’s what you see. I do things the other way around; that’s what informs my designs. ~ David Trapp
Ninety percent self-taught, woodworker David Trapp has built custom furniture and sculpture in his Victor, Idaho workshop for 30 years. Through a series of local connections and using machinery, books and tools he’d bought, he began gaining commissions to design furnishings, cabinets and most recently, abstract sculpture. His craftsmanship is flawless, but he’s not had Jackson gallery representation since his days at the former J.H. Muse Gallery, where his work sold extremely well. Trapp did benefit from his relationship with the great California woodworker Sam Maloof.
“Sam is still considered by most woodworkers to be the best furniture maker and designer in the country. He conducted regional classes, and anytime he was anywhere close, I would go,” recalls Trapp. “We got to be friends; three decades back I began working with Sam.”
In the woodworking world, it’s pervasive to take pride in the length of time spent working on any piece. While teaching a semester at Rhode Island’s School of Design, Maloof blew that preconception out of the water. Trapp was there.
“Sam said we were going to design and build two chairs. We’d do it in two weeks and then sell them,” says Trapp. “The students freaked out because they would take two semesters to build one piece. But Sam said, ‘That’s great—if you want to make your living doing something else and woodwork as a hobby, fine. But to make a living you must design and build good work quickly and efficiently. Business and money are not dirty words, so let’s get on with it!’ Everybody pissed and moaned, then stepped up and did it. Sam was trying to give them the tools to start up and not go broke in six months. I remain so influenced by Sam.”
Trapp’s work is all the more extraordinary because he’s afflicted with dyslexia dysgraphia ; he can’t write or draw and compensates by mentally drawing designs until he can visualize them in the round. He then creates those shapes, figuring it all out on his own.
Take Trapp’s “monk table” story. Having a tough time nailing down a design for a client, that client finally told Trapp to picture himself in some tiny, out-of-the-way rural French town.
“You’re walking down the street. Somebody’s opening up an old warehouse and it hasn’t been opened for centuries. In that old warehouse is a table that used to belong in a monestary. It’s 300 years old, and it looks 300 years old. I want that table,” the client told Trapp. Trapp educated himself on materials and techniques available in France 300 years ago. Surfaces were hand-planed, joinery was mortise and tenon, and there was only horsehide glue to use, which didn’t work too well. As all designs were executed by hand, they were necessarily asymmetrical. All the boards in that table are shaped differently, says Trapp.
I hope to tell you more, soon, about Trapp’s contemporary work and his new love, sculpture. Phone contact: 208-787-2752. http://www.dltrapp.com
Wednesday, March 20th, 7-8:00 pm, writer, naturalist and activist Terry Tempest Williams will give a reading from her new book, “When Women Were Birds: 54 Variations on Voice.” The Teton County Library is hosting the event.
“In 54 chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother’s journals in a book that keeps turning around the question, ‘What does it mean to have a voice?’ ” notes the library. Our mothers, ourselves. You may pick up a ticket at the Library; tickets are limited and only one ticket per library card will be issued.