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John Spivey

John Spivey is a studio furniture maker and author who lives and works in Santa Barbara, California. He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Redlands, California. He then went on to earn a secondary teaching credential in mathematics. He has worked variously as a teacher and master finish carpenter, cabinetmaker, and furniture maker. As a furniture maker he is primarily self-taught.

My love of woodworking goes back to childhood when I grew up at the base of the southern Sierra Nevada. I used to hide away in the room where my father stored his tools and had a rough workbench. The tools were never very sharp, but I tried to make whatever I could. My junior high woodshop classes were a revelation and both years I won the award as best student. I fell in love with woodworking again in the 1970s. I came across James Krenov’s "A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook" and was mesmerized by both his work and his feeling for wood. He put into words my own erotic connection to wood and my fate was sealed. I then studied the work of Maloof and Nakashima and found they expressed the same feelings for the medium. If you look closely you will find there are influences of all three makers in my work.

My design style is also influenced by Japanese calligraphy and sumi-e painting. I want elements of my furniture to appear as if they have been brushed into existence. My furniture can be considered functional sculpture and is primarily made with North American hardwoods (walnut, cherry, maple, and hickory). I work both with live edge wood and regularly milled wood. Tabletops are made with either one piece or from two book-matched boards or slabs and the same is true for the seats of my chairs. My furniture is finished with a proprietary nontoxic oil/varnish. All the ingredients are completely natural, including the varnish, and are food safe. The finish contains no mineral solvents or metallic dryers.

When a fine maker creates a furniture piece, something of his spirit is imbued in that piece. The maker is also preserving and enhancing the spirit of the tree and its roots in the soil. The client is choosing to live with that vision and spirit for many years and the client should be able to look at the piece every day with a smile.

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