Scott Sober: KISS and Tell

Scott Sober: KISS and Tell

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Scott Sober works alone in his upstate New York studio, building furniture of heirloom quality that is made to last. He says, “I design around the environment that the furniture will reside in to create harmony.” He truly enjoys working on designs with his clients to assure they are getting exactly what they want, sometimes even drawing details from other pieces in the room and incorporating them into the new piece. His newest designs lean toward transitional contemporary.

What is your background, including art and other degrees… or are you self taught?
I have always been a doodler and interested in how things are made. All throughout high school my main interests were making jewelry and throwing pottery on the wheel. I had intended to go to school for jewelry design after graduation but faced too many financial constraints. I needed an employable skill, so I attended community college for a degree in Biomedical Electronics. I wound up employed at a hospital, in its intensive care unit. It was stressful work – and I hadn’t lost my passion for art. My employer offered a tuition reimbursement program, so I jumped on it to put myself through The School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester NY, where I received a degree in furniture design and construction.

You are now a well respected furniture maker, but getting established in any art discipline can be daunting. It takes patience, persistence and good dose of intestinal fortitude. When did you first get a sense that your decision to follow your passion was going to work out?
Around 15 years ago I attended a student art show for the graduating class of RIT’s School for American Craftsmen. There were several well established and highly respected furniture makers in attendance. They all knew me from the school and I always felt like a “newbie” around them. Well, they were discussing the furniture market and the economy in general and I was just hanging out listening. As everyone is adding to the conversation, Richard Newman, Neo Classical furniture maker extraordinaire, turns to me and says, “Hey Scott, what are you doing to market yourself and find work?” At that moment I realized I was now looked upon as a contemporary, a peer, I had made it to the adult’s table! It filled me with new confidence. Remembering this evening helped me get through some rough patches, and keeps me on my path.

Your furniture designs are very fluid, using undulating curves and simple shapes to achieve an elegant balance. Can you tell us how your distinctive style came about?
My work has evolved over time and continues to change. When I first trained as a studio furniture maker I struggled to make overly complex designs and drove myself crazy. Eventually I came to rely on the acronym KISS- keep it simple stupid. I found that distilling designs down to simpler forms was more natural and organic for me. I was designing pieces that had clean lines with simple elegant curves. When necessary, I used veneering to add visual punch to my pieces. It changed my vocabulary and process for the better. I still enjoy the challenge of making intricate art-oriented pieces and I love working with my clients to achieve them. But always with a KISS!

Are there any particular furniture makers or schools of design that influence you?
I have been designing and building furniture professionally for 26 years. My inspiration comes from Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, Mid Century Modern and Asian Art and Architecture. Over those 26 years, I also developed great admiration for the works of George Nakashima, James Krenov and Wendell Castle. I use both traditional and modern joinery techniques, and choose finishes to enhance the beauty of the wood and protect it. I build my pieces using solid hardwood and veneers, manmade sheet goods and even metal, if the design requires it. At some point I would like to learn more about iron work and incorporate it in my work.

Have you received any special recognition recently that you would like to tell us about?
I was commissioned by the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY to design a piece for the Centennial celebration. They asked a group of artists in varied disciplines to create pieces that were inspired by one of the works in the museum’s collection. One of my cabinets was juried into the competition for a new book by Lark Publishing – 500 Cabinets. An image of a dining table I created for a commission was included in an article about my client’s kitchen renovation in the magazine Design NY in 2015. And, of course, I was a featured “Show Stopper” in the Spring 2016 issue of the Paradise City Guide!

If you have an appreciation for fine woodworking, don’t miss checking out Scott Sober’s newest designs at both Paradise City Marlborough and Paradise City Northampton this spring.