Many woodworkers know I’m an Esherick fan, but many don’t know exactly why. The first time I heard about Wharton Esherick was during my first year of working at Irion Company Furnituremakers. One day Bert Irion decided the crew needed to take the several mile trip up Valley Forge Mountain to visit a local museum. At the time, there were only six or seven of us including Bert and his wife. We loaded the gang into a couple of cars and drove up to the top of the hill, and my life changed forever.
Wharton Esherick was an artist: An artist in wood. But what struck me most about this man and his life was how immersed he was in is art. His creativity permeated every aspect of his life. And to a 19-year-old fledgling woodworker, that was an enticing lifestyle.
Most who read this will never have the chance to visit Esherick’s home and studio (which is now a museum), but you can still be inspired by the man who inspired the likes of Sam Maloof and generations of other studio furniture makers.
In 2014 Professor Carolyn Coal, whose Esherick-experience is similar to mine, began a journey that brings that feeling of wonder and inspiration to all who see it – she started filming a documentary about Wharton Esherick, his incredible life and those who’ve been influenced by him and his work.
Now, with the video work complete, the film is nearing the final stage, but it may not see the light of day. To date, the project has been funded entirely by Professor Coal. Unfortunately, she does not have enough money left to complete the production. I’ve been privileged to see a short rough-cut of some of the footage, and it is compelling in not only human terms, but as a woodworker. I was instantly taken back to that very first visit to the Esherick studio as I watched the interviews of others whose lives have been touched by this man.
If you are unfamiliar with Wharton Esherick, I urge you to seek out information on him, his life and his woodwork. I’m sure you’ll be inspired too. And if you are, and you’d like to learn much more about him, please join me (and others) in helping Carolyn Coal bring Wharton Esherick’s inspirational life to the silver screen. You can learn more, and donate to the project, by clicking here.