Award winning “Ripple” box with Jeff Baenen
I recently got to make friends with someone I definitely consider both a master craftsman and an artist. When I saw the winners of the Summer 2010 LumberJocks Woodworking Awards, I was obviously impressed at all of the incredible work to come from this contest. One however, stuck out to me a little more than the others and I wanted to make sure I shared some of his work with the rest of you. I got to chat a bit with Jeff Baenen, the creator of the piece which took 1st place, and was the first to ask him a bunch of questions about his work and his story. Though I’m sure I wont be the last!
As a little bit of background to recent CustomMade member Jeff Baenen, Jeff’s father knew a bit about woodworking, and there were always some tools laying around the basement to get familiar with. However, Jeff’s passion started when he starting building his own small basement shop one piece at a time. While he started to learn a bit more doing DIY projects around the house, he eventually wandered into making boxes. From the very first box he created, things took off. Jeff’s first commission piece was a bible box. Because the work coming out of his basement shop is incredibly intricate and unique, it requires a very meticulous eye for design, a gutsy imagination, and determination to make it work, no matter how impossible it seemed. Jeff has all three, and when coupled with his background and skills in mechanical design, they create some of the most intricate and amazing boxes I’ve seen.
Specifically, I asked Jeff about his latest creation called “Ripple” which was the piece that took 1st prize in the Lumberjock Woodworking Awards. The theme of the contest this time was “fluidity”, and it is for this reason I think that Jeff’s piece stands out. The box almost appears to be moving, and captures the idea of fluidity like no other woodwork I’ve seen yet. Jeff tells me that the idea of creating a piece which resembled water hitting wood was something that he had wanted to do for a few years. He pictured it as a challenge and set out to, once again, make something which was seemingly impossible to articulate, possible. Firstly, he sketched the design and came up with a few ideas. His projects tend to vary, as the second step is sometimes the building process, but in other cases is taken to a digital design level, where the design is perfected before any construction takes place.
With “Ripple”, as you can guess, it was the latter. Once digital designs were finalized, Jeff started in on this multi-month project employing the use of both power and hand tools where necessary. “Ripple” is made of 2″ thick maple, using mortise and tenon joinery with walnut dowels to further strengthen and add a nice contrast. Jeff typically steers away from color stains and enjoys using oil finishes and the natural hue of the different wood species to color the piece. Though with “Ripple”, he knew from the start he would be employing different methods to get that rich blue color that adorns the top of this box. The result was one of the most lifelike portrayals of water and movement I’ve seen in a wood medium.
Jeff takes an aggressive and truly independent minded stance on creativity and the process behind it, and his woodwork is fueled solely on passion. Though he often can find himself dealing with “writers block” or lulls in the spark that fuels the creative process, he finds that the best way to work through it is to just work through it! “the biggest thing for it is to just make sawdust” Jeff says. ”Try to do SOMETHING, anything, a cutting board maybe”. But he loves the excitement that comes with seeing his creations move from his imagination and designs to real life. He strives for originality and designing pieces that are functional sculptures; that work, but are also a work of art in their own right. He is all about pushing the limits and challenging himself. I had to smile when Jeff shared a quote he keeps in mind, “Design first, then figure out how to make it after that”. Its awesome to hear from someone who loves what he’s creating so much that his LumberJocks tag line is “Please… can I stay in the basement a little longer, please!!”.
This was a great and refreshing chat with someone who can think outside the box and dare to dream. Thanks to Jeff, and I’m sure this is not the last you’ll be seeing of him on CustomMade. Please leave Jeff some feedback!! Do you make something unique you’d like us to feature and share with our readers?? Let us know!!