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Archive for Sunday, June 22, 1997

BLUE HERON STRETCHES ITS LEGS FOR AREA WOODWORKERS

June 22, 1997

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Three area makers of fine furniture have their work juxtaposed with the eccentric fare of Blue Heron.

Rick Stein credits Rod Ernst for steering him in a new direction on the wheel of life.

It occurred in 1993 when Ernst, owner of a downtown Lawrence hardware store, walked into the nearby bicycle shop owned by Stein.

"He said, 'I need to buy an exercise bicycle for my wife.' And I said, 'I need to buy the table saw in your window.' It started about as spontaneously as that," Stein said.

So, after 20-something years in the biz, Stein sold his Lawrence bicycle store in 1994. The next day he began building a woodworking shop behind his Lawrence home.

He's now produced enough sawdust to collaborate with Will Orvedal, rural Lecompton, and Max Wardlow, McLouth, on a joint display of heirloom quality furniture at Blue Heron Contemporary Home Furnishings, 921 Mass.

Blue Heron exhibits the work of area artists, but the current show of one-of-a-kind, locally crafted furniture is a first.

"It feels good just to support the local artist," said Blue Heron owner Galen Tarman.

Tarman said he knows many creative people who enjoy making art but loathe the idea of marketing their work. Exposure on Massachusetts Street until July 12 might be useful to the woodworking trio, he said.

Wardlow, relatively new to the area, welcomed the opportunity to get in Blue Heron.

"There is a dearth of places for custom furniture makers to exhibit in Lawrence. I'm seeing this as a very important step," he said.

The Windsor look is represented in the exhibit by Wardlow's continuous-arm settee made of butternut, oak and ash. He also has a single Windsor chair. They could have been made in the 1700s.

Wardlow broke the mold on a more contemporary rocker crafted from planks of cherry and ash.

Orvedal, the best known of the three, brought in a fabulously designed and executed cabinet made of walnut and spalted elm. In addition, he has a high-back chair and rocking chair, both composed of walnut.

He said the Blue Heron display might help more people appreciate the value of fine furniture.

"It's not Fast Eddie's Furniture Mart stuff that ... falls apart in a few years," Orvedal said.

He would like people to view furniture for its aesthetic and investment qualities.

"It's more desirable to make something functional that also has beauty to it," he said. "I especially feel good when I make things intended to be passed on."

Stein, who used his connections as a former downtown merchant to get the exhibit off the ground, is showing a table with a quilted (the wood grain looks like clouds) maple top, a wall-hung cabinet made of ash and a side table of cherry and ebonized maple.

He said he was slowly dealing with the learning curve inherent in woodworking. Summer classes in Rockland, Maine, taught by nationally known craftsmen help. The money isn't great, but he loves the pace.

"It allows me to think methodically at each step from beginning to end," Stein said. "That contrasts with a retail business in which decisions are made rapidly."

Orvedal likes the approach of the apprentice, Stein.

"A lot of us care about the quality of what we're doing," he said. "We do it as well as we possibly can without watching the clock."

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