ENGRAINED LOVE OF WOOD: DESIGNER / STUDIO CRAFTSMAN JASON STUMPF
Jason Stumpf, area designer and craftsman, has been interpreting the utilitarian into an art for more than 20 years.
At the age of 10, Stumpf was gifted with a pocket knife and unknowingly, the inspiration for a love of everything wood. Years later, his career of spectacular minimalist cabinets, furniture, doors, mantles – even a boat – began.
I spoke with Stumpf, an Asbury Park resident, last week at his area studio, filled to the ceiling with blocks of seasoned walnut, pine and oak calling for his attention.
TBP: How do you describe what you do?
Stumpf: The short answer is I make things from wood – that is really what I do.
I hope to design and make furniture and other pieces that will last for generations and people will love and look beautiful. But I am not doing this by casting a spell – I have been working with wood since I was a kid. The pieces you see today are the result of thousands of hours of focus for me.
TBP: Your brain is wired in a very unique way to make such spectacularly – and I mean spectacularly – beautiful pieces.
Stumpf: The process behind the end result is what has kept me fascinated with working with wood for 20 years. I love taking an idea or creative challenge and coming up with a solution for it through design and engineering. I am not one of those people who has an explosion of creativity. What I am crafting today is very much influenced by what I did yesterday.
I am process oriented – give me a challenge and I will come up with a solution. I do not lose my mind with rules. I experiment with forms and refine and flesh out the details.
For the walnut stools with wrought iron foot rests pictured on my website (and above), a client came to me with the design requirement “stools that look cool.” After looking at the room, I played with opposing curves – the form of a tree, the lines of a tree. I kept focusing on that motif. I went through a long process to implement the lines in a way that would work with the other pieces in the room as well as be comfortable. Then, I put all the ingredients together.
When I design I aspire to remove as much unnecessary stuff as best I can. The most successful piece for me has been distilled down to the essence of the design requirements. [more below]
TBP: Do you see a block of Mahogany as the beautiful chair you could make it become?
Stumpf: I am inspired by Sam Maloof, George Nakashima and James Krenov who all crafted wood furniture that was sold in art galleries.
There is something about wood to me. It is full of romance, beauty and frustration. It can be heavy and massive and rough. It can be soft and warm. Every person alive has an innate response to wood. [more below]
As a material, as a medium to work with, you can build the finest most delicate piece of art from wood or the cribbing to a massive part of a bridge while it is being constructed. The idea that you take this thing that is growing and season it and bring it into your home – yet it still retains some of its naturalness in a new form, is pretty cool.
There is nothing like a beautifully made wood chair or cabinet. People gravitate to the beauty of the lines and forms of wood. Nobody walks over to a stainless steel Sub Zero refrigerator and pets it.