Marc Lamm began experimenting and developing his trademark woodworking techniques in 1996. His unconventional methods include joining boards along curves, inserting solid wood strips into curved cuts, creating designs of pegs which he makes from recycled or reclaimed wood, inserting solid wood into circular cuts, carving the surface, and several other techniques he has developed over the years. His work involves a diverse set of images and effects that interact and enhance each other within a visual theme. Marc likens his style of working with wood to the way a painter works with oils and a sculptor works with stone.
See Marc's work at the upcoming American Craft Show at the St. Paul RiverCentre April 20-22! Put on by American Craft Council, this event consists of more than 230 top contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home décor artists from across the country. More details about the show here!
What drew you to woodworking?
Woodworking is seductive. I love the tools, the designs, the planning and the implementation. I love seeing stacks of hardwoods at a lumber yard, the smell of cherry when I cut it, of oak being sanded and the fragrance of sweet maple sawdust on my hands at the end of the day. I love discovering hidden figures in boards when I oil them and the silken feel of wood after it’s sanded. I love the work, but most of all, I love the feelings I get when I’m doing it.
What sets it apart as a craft?
There is no comparable material. Wood is the only material that comes from a living source. You can see and feel that in finished pieces. The properties of wood are complex but if they are understood, the results are breathtaking. Only stone predates wood as a construction material in civilizations.
Have you always been creative?
I won a contest at the Art Institute of Chicago when I was six, but my parents had other issues to deal with, so my first serious work in art was in college. My major was in writing with a minor in theater, but took only one visual art class. (The charcoal drawing I made in that class is on the wall I’m facing now.) I lived on a commune for 3 years in the ‘70s then moved to the NW and raised my family. I became a full-time woodworker-artist in 1996 when I began developing my techniques.
What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
I’ve been playing the guitar and writing songs since 1969. I’ve been writing stories since 1971. I performed in several plays and had supporting parts in large venues twice. I recently wrote a book Curved Joinery, describing a set of techniques I developed and use in my work. I also write non-fiction.
What does your artistic process look like from start to finish?
I start with shapes – what I see in my mind – and have a general concept but I pay attention to the shapes and colors and move as I see the piece developing. I’ve been using the techniques I developed for 22 years so I work easily with them and have set my shop up ergonomically.
What role does experimentation play in your work?
It is the largest part of my work.
In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place? Why is local important?
My family is here. Most of my friends are here. It’s a beautiful place to live.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
I think your question restated might be: Do I feel I am influencing or changing people?
My answer: Seeing anything changes you in some way with its beauty or revulsion if you look at it—not with a passing glance but by taking time to see through the apparent to the core of it. I try to make things that are interesting, that people will wonder at and consider in some way when they see and touch it. I have made a few pieces that are “political” but that is not the focus of my work. However, I believe people get a sense of my philosophy and sensibilities when they see my work.