The woodworking world lost another Great last week, when James Krenov passed away at age 88. Krenov was revered as a master of simplicity in design, and is credited for rekindling the popularity of fine furniture-making with his 1976 book ”A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook”. In 1981 he created the Fine Woodworking Program at the College of the Redwoods, and he taught hundreds of eager students over his twenty years there.
Many in the woodworking community have shared their thoughts on Krenov over the last few days. Here are some quotes and links from around the web:
Rob Johnstone, Editor-in-Chief, Woodworker’s Journal
”There’s no doubt that James Krenov’s influence will continue. His work will be referenced and studied, copied and critiqued as it has been for so many years. But the force of his character and the spark of his creativity has been lost to us, and that is a sad thing indeed.”
Garry Venable, College of the Redwoods, Class of 1990
”Many people have touched upon Jim’s critical side in their remembrances. I would ask them to look to the results and forgive the methods. Sometimes a mother wolf must nip at a pup, and Jim’s “nips” made him real, took him down off the pedestal and helped us realize that Jim could only show us the answers he had found to the questions in his own life. We would need to find our own.” Garry remembers ”the moment when Jim caressed the sweep of one of my cabinets and called it good.”
Greg Zall, College of the Redwoods, Classes of 1991 and 1992
”I remember his beautiful hands, muscled and padded from years of working and moving wood. He was delicately tracing along the sweeping top of my cabinet. It delighted him. Then moving into the air, he recreated the curve with his hands dancing like a ballerina or a conductor. Students everywhere will remember the poise in his hands and the poetry in his hand movements.”
Fine Woodworking Editors, Fine Woodworking Blog
”Fine Woodworking asked Krenov how he would like to be remembered… He responded, as a ‘stubborn, old enthusiast.”’
Christopher Schwarz, Woodworking Magazine Weblog
”What [we are] left with… are his delightful books. Like many woodworkers, I was captivated by the ideas inside them. And as a writer, I was struck by his prose. Here was a guy writing woodworking books that contained little in the way of how-to information, the stock-in-trade of people like me. Instead he explored his long relationship with the material and the tools he used to shape it to his liking. Few woodworking writers have ever managed to capture, bottle and distribute that impossibly compelling but difficult-to-explain relationship that all artisans have with their raw material. That was James Krenov’s gift to us all.”
In an interview for his exhibit with the Smithsonian Institute, James Krenov summed up his philosophy about form and function in furniture. When asked about the function of the cabinets for which he became famous, he is quoted as saying, ”Above all, the purpose… is simply to please you and me and whoever. That’s the function. The function – people are always looking for. Well, what’s it for? Well, what if it’s just simply for you to admire and live with and not get tired of over the years, and keep? I regard pleasure as a function because if a thing is pleasant, that’s a function.”
To learn more about James Krenov and his lasting influence on woodworking and furniture design, check out his official site: JamesKrenov.com.