When sculptor and Professor of Art Emeritus Doug Calisch began crafting fine furniture at Split Cedar Studios, it wasn’t much of a stretch. He had picked up the skills at a furniture maker’s shop years before he began teaching at Wabash. He insists that the process isn’t much different from the steps he takes in creating sculpture.
“I still gather materials, often salvaged or re-purposed wood, design the project even as I’m collecting.”
And, as in his artwork, there’s often a story: The red oak lumber in a table came from a client’s homestead; ceramic medallions from another customer’s collection became detail accents on a dresser.
His most recent public project—the Peace Pole in Crawfordsville—followed a slightly different pattern.
“The pole was made from white oak salvaged from a grain elevator in New Ross, and I designed the project—but I didn’t do the cutting or fabrication myself. I was more a choreographer than an artist.”
In fact, he says, the fun part was reaching out to local businesses. He took a computer file to Stull’s Machine Shop in Ladoga, and they did the lettering; B & L Engineering in Crawfordsville fabricated the metal pieces.
“So instead of objects, I gathered the people that we needed to make the piece, but the process is about the same.”
People have been the “big surprise” in his furniture work.
“Being a sculptor is solitary—you do it, you’re satisfied yourself, then you put it out to the world. But with the furniture, it’s essential to engage clients early in the process.
“I recently did a huge project, and the clients came out to the studio. They saw the other work I was doing, and we talked; I made a model and we talked about that; and as I was working, every few days I’d send a couple photos of the piece and we’d talk about those. A lot of back and forth.
“I love solving complex design problems myself. But these conversations are a critical part of the process too. And I didn’t expect to enjoy that part of it that much—that collaboration. It’s very satisfying.”