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Andrew Pate: 50 Years – A Retrospective

By June 20, 2019No Comments

Andrew Pate: 50 years- a retrospective

VAM Small Gallery May 17 to June 11, 2019

If you’re ever unhappy I’m here in Cambridge, blame Andrew Pate. Not really. But still – Andrew is perhaps the person most responsible for my coming to Cambridge to run Hubbard Hall, besides my wife. We met on the phone in April 2013, and then in person in June that year when I came to Cambridge for the first time. I arrived on the Friday of the Balloon Festival and it was a magically beautiful weekend – like the one we just enjoyed. When I got out of my rental car on Main Street, I immediately called my wife and told her “You know that place we’ve been dreaming of – the one with the diner, the bookstore, the barbershop, the many stores and streets where our kids can run around? – I think I just stepped into that dream.”

I stayed with Andrew that weekend and we talked many times about the community and Hubbard Hall. We talked about making art and community. I knew then that Andrew was a designer and builder, who had created a company which builds and ships dance floors around the country – and who had designed and renovated many houses throughout this region. I knew Andrew was an artist – and his understanding and empathy for the community is part of what drove me to accept the job at Hubbard Hall. I felt we would be good partners in this work – he was then the Chair of the Board – and that if people like Andrew had chosen to live here for decades, that it was a place where I could serve, be happy and grow as an artist as well.

During last month in Valley Artisans Market, we’ve had a great reminder of what a fantastic artist Andrew Pate is. His woodworking has been on display – everything from his tables and benches to lamps, cheese boards and a gorgeous chess set. Andrew even designed a built a “baby bucket” for friends in the city, a beautiful wooden piece capable of holding an infant upright in the close quarters of a city apartment. Seeing Andrew’s work up close, I was amazed again at how a person can shape and tune the solid material of wood into a specific, often fluid-seeming vision. To twist, turn and smooth wood into a variety of beautiful shapes (and beautiful colors) seems like magic to me, as a skill I do not possess. Here’s what Andrew had to say about his work:

“There has never been any doubt that I had an affinity for wood or that it was in my blood. My grandfather ran a fine timber and veneer business in London. My father built many beautiful pieces of furniture and redecorated and maintained our home. We did projects throughout my childhood, heading down to the basement workshop evenings and on weekends, assimilating woodwork skills without knowing they would be part of a lifelong interest as well a way to make a living. My most enjoyable course in high school was mechanical drawing, which gave me a valuable tool to solve problems, design and convey ideas to future clients.

Graduating high school in 1969 I joined the counterculture with dreams of being a craftsman, artist and free spirit. It was the heyday of renewed interest in making things by hand, learning traditional crafts, respecting materials and pushing back against the sameness of manufactured goods.   I started building furniture and cabinets, experimenting with joinery and materials. Over the years I collected books on woodworking, crafts, architecture, art and design and visited historic house sites, galleries and museum collections and sought out contemporary makers who were pushing the boundaries of the new Studio Furniture movement. I also attended workshops at places like Haystack School and Penland to explore other crafts, materials and processes. The energy and exposure of these workshops has helped stimulate my creative process. Some of the objects in this show are from those workshops.   My work has been influenced by Shaker ideals of simplicity and function, the high design of the Art Deco period and the unique interpretations of style and design by people like Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley. I have worked at the drawing board, in the woodshop and on construction sites, consulting, problem solving and bringing design ideas to fruition. Projects have ranged from furniture, cabinetry, and industrial design, to energy efficient houses, renovation, historic restoration and reproduction.

I have enjoyed working with many clients over the years striving to produce high quality, thoughtful, functional spaces and objects with my own signature style. Design is most rewarding when it is a collaboration with the client or another designer, working together to achieve a special home, room or beautiful object. My usual approach has been to listen carefully and take detailed notes and measurements. I begin by making a scale drawing of the space or the parameters of the object. I might have an idea, almost immediately, for the piece or the solution. Sometimes I need to let it gestate, to let my unconscious mind work it out. I have often thought that inspiration seems to grow and flow with time and experience. Sometimes I let the wood lead the outcome, other times it is the desired function, and always to create something that has a certain balance, symmetry and harmony. It is interesting to look back on a lifetime of work and realize how varied and numerous are the projects I have had a hand in. Some of the pieces in the show are mine alone, others were done with the help of fellow craftsmen in the area. I hope I am leaving a body of work that is recognized and appreciated for its elegance and beauty.   I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse of my life in woodworking.”

Bravo Andrew – thank you for your artistry and your care of this community.

This post was originally published in The Eagle newspaper on Thursday, June 13, 2019. 

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