Curtis Erpelding

  • Curtis Erpelding's picture
    Resident of Port Orchard, WA
    Curtis is a self-taught woodworker who has been making furniture since 1977. He is inspired by architectural designs and 18th century period furniture.
Series 5536-28 Coffee Table
Series 8000 Table with glass top and stacking chairs
Pear Wood Medina Jewelry Box by Curtis Erpelding
Heart shaped inlaid box
Series 4024 swivel seat bar stool, 24 inch seat height.
Pearwood Round Table
Photo of  Point-Counterpoint Cabinet by Curtis Erpelding
Photo of Celtic Knot Table by Curtis Erpelding
Photo of Rosewood Crescent Desk by Curtis Erpelding
Cherry and glass stacking tables
Chaise by Curtis Erpelding
Series 3000 bar stool
Series 5500 Stacking Tables by Curtis Erpelding
Corner cabinet
Stand-up Desk by Curtis Erpelding
Round table with bicycle motif
Cater Entertainment Cabinet
Series 1000 Stacking Chairs, White Oak
Rosewood and Brass Barrister Bookcase
Oculus table, pivoting top
Cherry Butterfly Table
Photo of Leaning Bookshelf by Curtis Erpelding
Photo of Crescent File Desk and Tablet Arm Chair  by Curtis Erpelding
 Series 6000 Coatrack by Curtis Erpelding
Diamond Lattice Table
Interlock Round Walnut Table
Quadrant Corner Cabinet by Curtis Erpelding
Series 1000 Stacking Chairs, Walnut
Chrysanthemum round box
heart box
Series 1000 Stacking Chairs, Maple
Series 1000 Stacking Chairs, Ash
Series 1000 Stacking Chairs, Cherry
heart box

I grew up in Colorado where my family owned a camping ground. My father did all of the maintenance, from carpentry and welding, plumbing and electrical repair, to road work and trash hauling. Working alongside him exposed me to many skills and I learned to enjoy physical labor, to have a respect for tools and to take pride in performing the task at hand however mundane it might be. I don't remember a particular interest in wood (my main passion in high school was restoring sports cars and my degree from the University of Colorado is in English Literature) but my first job after moving to Seattle in 1975 led in an indirect way to an interest in woodworking and furniture design. As sales clerk and handyman-by-default at a large book store, I found myself building shelves, making shipping crates and repairing store fixtures, all of which sparked my interest in woodworking. At the same time I was living in a series of small, unfurnished apartments and decided to use my new found interest to make portable furniture.  
The confluence of woodworking and furniture design in my life had an unanticipated and surprising effect: I had found my career! From the beginning I was self-taught but I read everything relevant that I could find (working at a bookstore was an advantage). I also spent long, long hours in the shop. Putting in time with the materials and the process is, in the end, the only way to learn, whether you've studied with the best or struggled on your own.  

My design interests and inspirations have always been eclectic. Scandinavian modern design and traditional Japanese wood joinery as well as the classic styles of 18th century England and France are important influences. Architecture, both ancient and modern, informs my sense of proportion and use of ornamental detail. I love fusion. The challenge is to connect disparate elements harmoniously into a new look. For a time (my apartment dwelling days) I was interested in knockdown design. I received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980 to develop three knockdown furniture prototypes that would be suitable for manufacture. Although none of these prototypes were ever put into commercial production, I still continue to make the stacking chair and leaning bookshelf (designs that came out of the grant project) in small production runs at my shop and home in Port Orchard.

I enjoy working closely together with my commission clients to determine the function of the piece and to decide which woods and decorative techniques would best fit their environment. In many ways I find it easier to be creative when I am working within constraints. Whatever I am making, I strive to create furniture that fits contemporary life styles while representing the fine tradition on which the craft is built.  

Read about Curtis Erpelding in the press
How the Elegant Practice of a Craft Can Be High Tech, Too
(Link to article)
The New York Times December 4, 1999

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