Geometric Elegance in Wood

Artist Profile — Joel Liebman

When someone finds the work he was meant to do, magical things happen.

art-deco-bed3

Like many of us, Joel Liebman was getting into his late twenties “with no plan.” When taking an Adult-Ed woodworking course in his then hometown of Ithaca, NY, Joel learned of a nearby new school for furniture design.

He attended a guest lecture at the Genoa School of Furniture Design, promptly enrolled in the school, and has been smitten with the art of designing and crafting beautiful furniture since.

deco-room

deco-table-top-detail“I loved the smell of the wood,” said Joel.

“Genoa offered a unique experience in the in-depth study of art, art history, technical drawing, furniture design, and furniture construction in the traditional handcrafted manner, employing hand and modern machine joinery to a high level of craftsmanship rarely seen in modern times,” said Joel.

Out of his third-floor studio in an old mill building in Western Massachusetts, Joel crafts his extraordinary custom-built Art Deco furniture. He started working in the Art Deco style thanks to a client who asked him to build some pieces eight years ago.

decodesk

Joel gained a following by participating in many craft shows where he would display sample pieces. He customized designs for his clients based on the samples they saw in his booth.

His pieces incorporate striking graphic shapes, and artful combinations of wood like curly, birdseye or quilted maple contrasted with rich, dark Sapele.

curved-cabinet

bench-for-vinceWhy Art Deco? “I guess it’s just classy,” said Joel. “It strikes a chord when you see…antiques, or when you see in a movie a Hollywood mogul in a giant Art Deco office.”

“It has so much character, more than anything I can think of. The only thing that comes close is a contemporary piece that has flash.”

His interest may have started with a sultry Art Deco lamp at his grandparents’ home, and continued with an appreciation for great Art Deco architecture like NYC’s Chrysler Building and the hotels of South Beach Miami.

For his furniture designs, Joel finds inspiration in antiques. “I look at antiques and books like Judith Miller’s big fat furniture book, and use some of the detail from the antiques, redesigning for my own pieces,” said Joel.

DECOSET

19118He tries not to look much at the work of other contemporary furniture designers. “It’s a challenge to come up with your own thing; the last thing you want to do is copy a contemporary work,” said Joel.

Joel can and does build any style of furniture, but Art Deco is specialty. He didn’t choose to specialize for marketing reasons, but later realized it helps with selling his work. “You need to have something different,” said Joel.

Joel took the time to market his work online and today he gets most of his work through his Web site. “I was surprised that I ever come up through a search engine for the term ‘furniture,’ but I do. I built the site myself, and I sent the site to people who know, to suggest how to improve the way people can find me,” said Joel.

Google “Art Deco Furniture” and you’ll find Joel.

dresser
Joel’s gorgeous Blue Glass Inlay Dresser is one of his contemporary designs with an aesthetic influenced by his love of Art Deco.

Joel’s advice for other artists? The same advice he was given by a professor. “Mass consume books. Buy and mass consume books on style and design and look for inspiration.”

What you think about Joel’s furniture and about the Art Deco style in general? Do you have any Art Deco in your home?

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9 Comments for “Geometric Elegance in Wood”

Very nice work. Thanks for sharing it.

Congratulations, Joel. It all looks great!

Mary and John,

Joel does do wonderful work, doesn’t he? The time expended and attention to detail is impressive. I can tell he really loves what he does.

John, I popped over to your site and you also do beautiful work.

Stop by anytime,
Kathy

Nice furniture designs!

[…] other woodworking artists I’ve interviewed, Kevin is passionate about the material of his […]

We are looking for 2 curved cabinets that can have lamps on theme and glass for display.

Do you have any ideas?

Absolutely love this furniture. I am in the middle of making a 1/4″ scale art deco building (that is in 1/4″ to 1′ scale) and would love to use his furniture as models to make the tiny furniture for my building. That is, of course, if Mr. Liebman does not object. I have been building doll house buildings and furniture for years but this is my first attempt into art deco – and am fascinated by it and love every minute I am working on it.

In response to D.M.
Feel free to make the little models.. I would love to see the final results..

And in response to Colleen I would be happy to work with you on a design for this project.. Something I have already done can be seen here.
http://www.jlfurniture.com/Art_Deco/Art_Deco_Cabinet/art_deco_cabinet.html

Love the bed. Would like one for my bedroom.

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