With this issue, Ian Kirby will be producing "Wood Notes," as a supplement of insights for Woodworker West subscribers. Ian is a well known woodworker, designer, author, and teacher, who has been working in the field for over 40 years. For the past 2 1/2 years, he has been guiding students in San Diego¹s North County R.O.P. woodworking program to produce furniture that has gained national recognition and award.
Ian¹s woodworking and design foundation was laid at the most prestigious colleges in England. "I had extremely good teachers, including Edward Barnsley (the son of one of the original leaders in the Arts & Crafts movement). I had tutors who were there to teach in the manner that the Arts & Crafts people worked out. There were no secrets or tricks. It was a very considered, very thoughtful, and very straight forward methodology."
After securing degrees in design, wood science & technology, and furniture-making, Ian began a 14 year career of teaching at London University and operating his own interior design studio, with his wife Rosalind. "We took on interiors where we did the whole thing...the walls, the carpets, the fabrics, the furniture...I made the furniture."
On a1973 sabbatical, he came to the U.S. to teach at Cal. State L.A. and returned again in 1975 to teach at the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. "I realized that I wanted to move to the U.S., and my opportunity came when I was invited to join a community of artisans in North Adams, MA, to start a school of furniture-making, which we opened in October, 1976."
The Kirby Studios became a center of furniture education, drawing students from throughout the country. After moving the school to Bennington, VT, he started a residential furniture manufacturing company, Kirby/Apter Design, with showrooms and national reps and began writing articles for national magazines.
By 1983, the studio had grown "so big" that Ian felt the school needed a more urban setting, and Atlanta was chosen as the new site. He also began to produce a series of woodworking books. With the economic downturn of the late 80¹s, student applications fell off, and the school ultimately closed.
In recent year¹s, Ian has broadly consulted, including developing the educational strategy for the IWE and the "Choice Wood" product line for Weyerhaesuer; demonstrating on the woodworking show circuit; designing custom residential and commercial interiors; and teaching in San Diego.
Ian believes that furniture should be designed to solve a problem. "I don¹t feel a need to produce artistic furniture...functional furniture is artistic by its nature." To this end, he is developing plans to manufacture a new line of furniture. As for woodworking education, "There is a lack of understanding of the simplistic approach of how to woodwork. I hope my supplements in Woodworker West and my future seminars will help to lessen this lack of understanding."