Once Upon a Time

A History of the Collectors of Wood Art

The idea of the CWA can be traced back to a phone conversation between Robyn Horn and Stoney Lamar in 1996. Stoney suggested that Robyn could invite artists and collectors to her new home to see her collection and talk about wood art. Subsequently, Robyn invited about 100 people to come at the end of October, 1997. We toured museums, viewed a slide show of artists work, had a banquet in the park, a fish fry at the lake by Robyn and John's house, and saw their wonderful collection of wood art and contemporary crafts. For many, the highlight was the morning we met at Robyn's shop with tables set up down the middle isle of what seemed more like a warehouse. Twenty-seven artists (including Christian Burchard, Virginia Dotson, Gorst Duplessis, David Ellsworth, Melvin Firmager, Clay Foster, Michael Hosaluk, Todd Hoyer, Bill Hunter, John Jordan, Max Krimmel, Stoney Lamar, Steve Loar, Bruce Mitchell, Bill Moore, Michael Peterson, Norm Sartorius, Merryll Saylan, Betty Scarpino, David Sengel, Mark Sfirri, Jack Slentz, Hayley Smith, Bob Sonday, Al Stirt, Howard Werner) set out their work and there was an almost feeding frenzy among the collectors. We also met on November 1, 1997 to discuss the possible formation of a collectors group. Eighty people were present for a talk by Ruth Summers of the Southern Highlands Guild and Glass Arts Society to provide a model for the organization. There was an extensive discussion of what would be included wood turning, wood sculpture, work in metal or stone, etc. We identified ourselves as collectors, makers, gallery and museum people who came together to see the most current work, to get together with friends and to make friends - and we wanted to be able to do it again. Ron and Anita Wornick offered to host the next meeting. A steering committee was formed to discuss the possibility of formation of an organization. Present were: David Ellsworth, John Gobrecht, Robyn Horn, Max Krimmel, Albert LeCoff, Steve Loar, Elizabeth Mai, Arthur and Jane Mason, Bruce Mitchell, Allan and Joy Nachman, Joe Seltzer, Skip Shaw, Gary Smith, Jamie Studley, Suzy and David Wahl, Kevin Wallace, Ruth and David Waterbury, Doris and Harry Wolin, Anita and Ron Wornick. There was an extended discussion and general sentiment was to move ahead.

FORUMS: (usually 50-100 people attended)
The second FORUM was held in San Francisco in September, 1998 and organized by Ron and Anita Wornick. The name Collectors of Wood Art was chosen and the organization formally established as a 501(c)(3) which was subsequently granted by the IRS. Robyn Horn was elected the first President. The FORUM was held in a hotel with panels and slide shows. Six galleries rented space in the hotel and collectors and artists spent a lot of time looking at the art. There was also a reception at a gallery. Bob Stocksdale was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The third FORUM was held in conjunction with SOFA Chicago in November, 1999. The CWA supported an exhibition, titled "Collectors Choice". CWA members were asked to identify which 25 artists are doing the best and most innovative work in the field. The 20+ selected artists were asked to submit a recent piece. CWA published a catalog. Robyn Horn served as President. Rude Osolnik was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award

The fourth FORUM was held in Charlotte, NC at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in May 2000 to see the exhibit "Turning Wood into Art: The Jane and Arthur Mason Collection". A highlight was touring the exhibit of 125 pieces by 42 artists and seeing an additional exhibit of work donated in honor of the Masons. Robyn Horn served as President. Michael Monroe was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The fifth FORUM was held in conjunction with the "Woodturning in North America Since 1930" show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minneapolis, MN in September 2001. Ruth and David Waterbury organized the event. A highlight was touring the 134 objects in the wonderful exhibit of wood art from 1930 to 2000 that was organized by the Wood Turning Center and the Yale University Art Gallery. Jane Mason served as President. Jan Peters and Ray Leier were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The sixth FORUM was held at SOFA Chicago in October 2002 and we had a second "Collectors Choice" exhibition. 28 artists were selected. The catalog included an essay by Arthur Mason. Jane Mason served as President. David Ellsworth was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The seventh FORUM was held in Santa Fe in September 2003 at La Fonda Hotel and organized by David and Suzy Wahl. A highlight was visiting a large number of galleries in Santa Fe which had wood art and also the chance to see many private collections of art in the Santa Fe area. Gary Smith served as President. Albert LeCoff was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The eighth FORUM was held at SOFA Chicago in November 2004 with an exhibition, "Whole Grain: Sculptural Wood" which was curated by Mark Leach. 18 artists were selected to explore the conceptual parameters and technical approaches employed by artists today. The catalog included an essay by Janet Koplos. Gary Smith served as President.

The ninth FORUM was held in Philadelphia in September 2005 in collaboration with the Wood Turning Center. Joe Seltzer was the organizer. There were a variety of activities in conjunction with the Wood Turning Centers 10th anniversary of the International Turners Exchange as well as events just for the CWA. A highlight was touring the exhibition "Connections: International Turners Exchange 1995-2005" which included work by 64 ITE resident artists, photojournalists and scholars. Bruce Heister served as President. Edward Jacobson was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The tenth FORUM was held at SOFA Chicago in November 2006 with an exhibition, "The Presence of Absence: Exploring the Void in Contemporary Wood Sculpture" which was curated by Hal Nelson. 22 artists were selected for this exploration of negative space. Hal wrote an essay for the catalog. Bruce Heister served as President. William Hunter was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The eleventh FORUM was held in Scottsdale, AZ in January 2008 and organized by Bruce Heister. We had three days of panels and tours. A highlight was a tour to the Arizona State University Museum to see the original Jacobson collection. We also had a number of interesting tours of private collections. Pat McCauley served as President. Robyn Horn was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The twelfth FORUM was held at SOFA Chicago in November 2008 with an exhibition, "A Perfect Marriage: Wood and Color" which was curated by Paul Richelson. 23 artists were selected to show work where color was a key element of the piece. Some had color applied while others used bleaching or the natural colors of the wood. Arthur Mason wrote an essay for the catalog. Pat McCauley served as President.

The thirteenth FORUM was held in Asheville, NC in April 2009 and organized by Pat McCauley and Jeff Bernstein. There were artist presentations, several speakers, and a visit to the Grovewood Gallery to see an AAW juried exhibition, "Turning for the Future: A Fresh Look at Wood Art". Also included were several visits to artist studios and collectors homes. Jeff Bernstein served as president. Arthur and Jane Mason were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The fourteenth FORUM was held at SOFA Chicago in November 2010 with an exhibition, "Is Ornament a Crime?: Rethinking the Role of Decoration in Contemporary Wood" which was curated by Cindi Strauss. 16 artists were selected and challenged to make a work that responds to unornamented form without sacrificing creativity or technique. Cindi wrote an essay for the catalog. Jeff Bernstein served as President. Stoney Lamar was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The fifteenth FORUM was held in St. Paul, MN in June 2011 in coordination with the 25th anniversary Symposium of the American Association of Woodturners and organized by Joe Seltzer. One day was devoted to panels and talks, one day was at the AAW Symposium and one day was for tours. A highlight was visiting the Waterburys home and also the exhibit, "Conversations with Wood: The Collection of Ruth and David Waterbury" at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Joe Seltzer served as President. David and Ruth were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The sixteenth FORUM was held in Little Rock, Arkansas at Robyn and John Horn's house in September, 2012. It was designed to be a throwback to the first FORUM. We had artists presenting images of their work, a fish fry, a chance to see Robyn and Johns collection and outdoor sculpture garden, and a reprise of the tables in Robyns warehouse for artists to put out and sell their work. We also visited the Arkansas Arts Center and had a tour of their permanent collection and walked through their back room. Especially interesting was a trip to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Applied Design Department where we met a number of students in wood art and saw their work. Finally, we went to Clinton Library and had the curator of the White house Craft Collection show us wood art that is in the collection. She was especially interested because several of the artists of the pieces she showed were in the audience. However, they were not allowed to touch their own work! Joe Seltzer served as President of CWA and Mark Sfirri won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

At SOFA, November 2012, the CWA sponsored the exhibition "What is Beautiful? Changing Perspectives in Contemporary Wood Art" which was curated by Charlotte Wainwright who also wrote the catalog essay. The work of 23 artists was presented.

The Seventeenth FORUM was held in New Haven in July 2013 and organized by Pat Kane of the Yale University Art Gallery. We walked through the "Conversations with Wood: Selections from the Collection of Ruth and David Waterbury" exhibition at the Yale Art Gallery with Dave and Ruth, visited the Yale Art Gallery Furniture Study, and went to two collectors homes. There was a panel on "Curators as Collectors" with Jonathan Fairbanks, John Stuart Gordon, Emily Zilber and Pat Kane and a talk on "Lathe Logic" by Ezra Shales. We had our final dinner at Morys, a club dating back into the 1800s. Steve Keeble served as President.

At SOFA, November 2014, the CWA sponsored the exhibition "Beyond Boundaries: Wood Art for the 21st Century" which was curated by Emily Zilber who also wrote the catalog essay. The work of 26 artists was presented. The SOFA organizers provided an especially large and visible booth that was crowded virtually the whole show. Judy Chernoff served as President, and Joe Seltzer won the Lifetime Achievement Award.


TOURS: (usually 10-35 people attended)
The CWA has held several tours over the years. In June, 2002, we did a tour in Los Angeles that included attending the instant gallery of the AAW Symposium and auction, the LA County Museum of Art for a back room tour, several artists' studios and collectors' homes and a dinner at del Mano Gallery.

In October, 2006, there was a tour to Long Beach to see the opening of the William Hunter retrospective exhibit at the Long Beach Museum of Art. In addition, there were visits to artist studios and collectors homes.

In September, 2007, there was a tour to Boston to see the Wornick collection "Shy Boy, She Devil, and Isis" at the Museum of Fine Arts, visits to several collectors' homes and several artist studios.

In September, 2010, there was a tour in Washington, DC. The group visited "A Revolution in Wood: The Bresler Collection" at the Renwick Gallery, attended a roundtable discussion, and visited 7 collectors homes.

In September, 2011, there was a tour to Pittsburgh to see the new gallery space at the Carnegie Institute of Art and the exhibit "Handmade: Contemporary Craft in Ceramic, Glass and Wood". We toured the decorative arts galleries with the curators, visited three artist studios and one collector's home, and had a number of very good meals.

In May, 2013, we had a tour in New York City. We started with visits to the homes of four members to see their collections and homes/apartments. We also visited the Museum of Art and Design and had a guided tour with the curator of their exhibit. Hunt Clark's wood sculpture on which a moving car was projected was especially interesting.

In September, 2014, we had a tour of San Diego. We visited Sam Maloof's home and workshop; a private home/studio; the San Diego Museum of Art; Wendy Maruyama's studio where we also viewed a show of works by local wood artists; and the Mingei Museum where we had a private tour of "In the Realm of Nature: Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi".

EVENTS at SOFA, Chicago:
We have our annual member meeting at SOFA Chicago in November and on the years where we are not having a FORUM, still have a dinner and sponsor a panel on the SOFA Program.

History reported by Joe Seltzer and others