By Regina Connell.
When you were a kid, restraint was one of those concepts that didn’t exist, right? Then, for many, as you got older, the idea that restraint was a good thing got kind of knocked into you. This was particularly the case when it came to all things aesthetic: “grown up” style translated into classic, simple, and straightforward.
Fast forward. You grew up a bit more… and you got bored. Where was the individuality—or maybe even the eccentricity—that your style was supposed to portray as you got older?
So, you decided it was time to inject a little more personality into your home. But as you went hunting for the right pieces, you realized that with few exceptions, you couldn’t really find anything that fit the bill. The things you could buy to feather your nest weren’t about adding personality: they were about being safe, being sensible. It’s not like you were looking to go fully off the reservation, but you wanted something—yes, of course, something with quality and design rigor—to add that je ne sais quoi to your space.
Thank goodness for people like furniture maker Scott McGlasson of Woodsport. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Woodsport (love that name, by the way) makes handcrafted hardwood furniture, lighting, and accessories.
Scott characterizes his work as “modern and original but [with] some rustic and old-world qualities. It’s made using mostly traditional woodworking techniques with an emphasis on quality, materiality, and craftsmanship.” It has a dry, dapper, knowing wit to it. It doesn’t try too hard, retaining instead that offhand cool. He gets that furniture does not have to be about seriousness and angst, rigor and rigor mortis. It’s about something essential to life: delight. His motto, “expertly crafted, for your pleasure” sums it up perfectly.
The piece that initially caught my eye was Mr. Drink, a beverage caddy (it rolls to where it’s needed) that comes with a built in bottle opener. (I can’t tell you how genius I find this concept, and how fun and funny.) But what I love about this piece is that it’s not just about ha-ha design, but about good design: said bottle opener is an extension of the vertical table support, and a handy grip for wheeling the table around to exactly the right spot.
Then I saw the Woodsport Chaise: on the surface, a wooden take on the familiar woven plastic version. But this piece does what wood isn’t supposed to do: it flexes and conforms to the body of the lounger/sitter, a miracle (to me, at least) of engineering. This wood-textile quality comes from its design: 207 tiles woven together with prusik rope. Then there’s the “stitching” and the wenge and walnut beads. Oh yes, and then there’s the fact that it’s made of cut-offs from other projects. Tick the sustainability box, thank you.
In college, Scott studied English, and when he graduated, worked in social services and then secondary education with at-risk youth out of college. “I was headed to grad school when I took an evening cabinet making class at Minneapolis Technical College back in the mid 90s as a fringe benefit of working for the Minneapolis Public Schools. I fell hard in love with woodworking on that first night. I was burning out working with kids.”
But this love didn’t really come out of the blue. “I’d always been drawn to interior design, furniture design. In my late teens, I was the punk rocker with a Wassily chair in my apartment.” (Ah, now you see the roots of his sensibility.)
He largely taught himself the craft and fabrication methods, and as he started to work, he was lucky enough to fall in with formally trained designers, architects, and makers who helped shape his aesthetic and design sensibility. (It helps if you listen and are open to this kind of thing. Not everyone does, and I think you can tell.)
For Scott, the making and the design come together, and that process fascinates him. “What drives me more than anything is the development of a design. This thing did not exist before I thought it up, drew it, obsessed about it, mocked it up, broke it into pieces, mocked it up again, sourced materials, then actually built it—and then someone pays me for it and it becomes part of the world. It is incredibly gratifying.” Lovely.
For Scott, it’s not just craftsmanship and smart design, but sustainability—that’s what Woodsport is about. He harvests lumber from the “urban forest” and seeks to avoid waste of any kind. Accessories are designed in order to use scrap. Small scrap pieces heat Scott’s sauna. Shavings end up in local chicken coops or pottery kilns. Finishes are the low VOC kind.
The story behind the Chaise is a perfect example of his love of design combined with inventiveness, rooted in his deep appreciation of functionality. “What is better than a chaise?” he asks. “It’s sculptural and mimics the human body. It represents rest and relaxation and is luxurious in that way—and it’s also pretty superfluous for most people. The tile and rope is a process I adapted. Woodworkers have been doing it for years, but I’ve hopefully taken it to someplace modern.”
Clearly, his customers find value in all of this, and his business has thrived. “I’ve gotten to a point where there is enough demand for my work and I make only my own designs, so there is a lot of independence and control in that. It hasn’t always been this way, so I’m appreciative of it. I’ve developed a really nice balance in how I run my business—it’s not a big operation, typically 2 or 3 people, but it’s serious and professional. It’s an okay living and I’m not stressed out about my workload. I get to say “no” a lot and only make what I want to make.”
Find Woodsport at woodsport.net