I was talking to a friend about a new generation of artisans that are keeping the tradition of handcrafted hardwood furniture alive throughout the United States, when she alerted me to Skana Design, a one-man woodshop in Spencer, Massachusetts, that epitomizes the movement. Owned and operated by Joe Weiss, a young, largely self-taught craftsman and designer, Skana specializes in creating one-off and small-batch heirloom-quality furniture inspired by Scandinavian and modern American designs. The quality and originality of handcrafted pieces seem to rise when they’re designed and made by the same person, and Joe’s furniture and objects are no exception. The freshness of invention and level of craftsmanship displayed by his unique tables, consoles, frame, humidors, and other items, are impressive. I thought I’d share a couple of Skana Design pieces that caught my eye with you.
Joe teamed up with metalworker Jason Roche to produce a quirky but elegant walnut writing desk with a stainless-steel base and built-in lamp. The desk features a dramatic, free-edge black walnut slab top that recalls the free-form tables master woodworker George Nakashima, a father of the American craft movement, created last century. And like Nakashima’s furniture, natural cracks in the slab are stabilized with butterfly joints, bow-tie-shape walnut keys that not only prevent the wood from splitting further but also look highly decorative. The polished stainless-steel legs and wire shelves are a nod to the furniture of such American midcentury masters as Harry Bertoia and Charles and Ray Eames, while the witty use of a motorcycle headlight for the desk lamp evokes the automobile headlight Italian designer Achille Castiglioni incorporated in his iconic 1962 Toio floor lamp.
As the name suggests, the Danish Modern coffee table was inspired by midcentury Scandinavian design. Like the writing desk, the table features a free-edge black walnut slab top with butterfly joints to secure natural splits. (Both pieces are made with wood from the same tree, which had fallen in one of Massachusetts’s fierce ice storms.) The chunky base, which includes a magazine rack, is made of blond-colored maple that contrasts pleasingly with the darker top. Joe has maximized the natural beauty of the walnut slab by using a boiled linseed-oil finish sealed with wax—a treatment that lets the wood’s true color and grain reveal themselves without cosmetic alteration or enhancement. When choosing materials for new furniture, Joe favors sustainable wood species found in North America such as ash, birch, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, and walnut, all of which offer beauty and character without distracting from the distinctive lines of the pieces he designs.