Maloof Turns Furniture into Art: Sam Maloof's Exquisite Furniture Looks like It Belongs in Museums, but the "Kings of Rockers" Insists That Each Piece He Creates Be as Functional as It Is Beautiful

By Goode, Stephen | Insight on the News, January 7, 2002 | Go to article overview

Maloof Turns Furniture into Art: Sam Maloof's Exquisite Furniture Looks like It Belongs in Museums, but the "Kings of Rockers" Insists That Each Piece He Creates Be as Functional as It Is Beautiful


Goode, Stephen, Insight on the News


For more than 50 years Sam Maloof has been making beautiful furniture. The rocking chairs, dining-room tables, chairs and other pieces of woodwork that have made him world-famous now are being purchased by a fourth generation of buyers. People magazine named him the "King of Rockers." Among those who admire superb woodworking, his name is legendary.

Maloof works with such woods as walnut and fiddleback maple. Simple in design, with the sleek, elegant grace of fine sculpture, his furniture looks like it belongs in museums rather than homes. But the pieces Maloof creates -- he does the designs and puts them together -- always are functional and never merely decorative.

Maloof wants his chairs, tables and other works to be intimate parts of their owners' everyday lives, he tells INSIGHT. More than a half-century ago, Maloof's garage was his first workshop. His second was a run-down chicken coop. Now he has a full-scale workshop, and nearby is the family residence he built room by room, a home that itself has become a work of art and, at the same time, fully functional.

INSIGHT spoke with Maloof a second-generation Lebanese-American from Southern California, at an exhibition of his work in Washington's Renwick Gallery. The woodworker moved among the furniture he had designed and created by hand, urging us to touch the wood and enjoy the smoothness, beauty and crafting of each piece.

Insight: Do you think of yourself as a craftsman?

Sam Maloof: It's all right, but I call myself a woodworker. I like woodworker a lot better. Woodworker tells the whole story. A craftsman could be a craftsman in jewelry, in pottery, in any of the media in which craftsmen work. But woodworker defines pretty much what I do.

Insight: Did you always want to do something like woodworking?

SM: I've worked with my hands ever since I was a little boy. I always was interested in wood and I worked with it as a boy. I can't remember when I didn't want to work with my hands.

Insight: Watching you describe your furniture and touch it as you're explaining how you made it makes it very obvious that you're one of those lucky men who thoroughly enjoy what they do. There is a one-to-one correspondence between you and the beautiful woodworking that you do.

SM: It's more so than that. People come to see me and I say, "You know, if your wife isn't with you on this 100 percent forget it because you'll never make it. Fortunately for me, my wife was with me 1,000 percent. Otherwise I would never have stuck it out. But it is a love of what you do. So many people work at jobs they just detest, and they stay with them just because of the money they make. I never even thought about that, and she didn't either.

Insight: Was your early enthusiasm enough to carry you through the frustrations and learning process of acquiring this skill?

SM: Really, my only worry was that I didn't think it was fair to my wife. I'd quit my job as a graphic artist and it was a very good job. We were living on a shoestring budget.

And there wasn't a learning process because I was able to do woodworking off the bat. The learning process involved how to live on that shoestring. Still, my wife never had to work outside the house. She took care of her invalid mother and then of our baby.

Several times I talked to her about it, indicating it wasn't fair that I didn't have a regular salary. She would say, "We can do it." I have said it many times: It was her faith and love that sustained me. It sounds corny but that is the way it was.

Insight: How did you get started in making furniture? When did people start seeing how good you were at what you were doing?

SM: The first pieces I did were for ourselves. I needed furniture for the house because we didn't have any furniture when we married. A friend gave me some old plywood that had been used for cement construction and I had the dried cement sandblasted off by a local man who was a tombstone cutter.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Maloof Turns Furniture into Art: Sam Maloof's Exquisite Furniture Looks like It Belongs in Museums, but the "Kings of Rockers" Insists That Each Piece He Creates Be as Functional as It Is Beautiful
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.