When a Chicago artist decided to strengthen his craft creating sculptures, he took on an unlikely job to help him refine the lines. Nearly a decade later, he's using the skills he picked up as a mill worker to create custom wooden furniture.
It was shortly after the pandemic hit that woodworker Keith Skogstrom found himself nearly overwhelmed with orders for custom wooden furniture.
“People were at their dining room tables more since they were working from home, and noticed maybe a leg was loose and decided to get a new table.”
With orders up nearly 400%, the growth Skogstrom saw in his company, Geodesic Designs, really gave him a chance to flex his artistic muscles, professionally. Because every commissioned piece is customized, the number of hours it takes to complete along with the cost vary.
“When we did a piece for the Violet Hour restaurant in Wicker Park, we came to it with the same processes. We have to give design intent. So we present detailed sketches to the client, and they say sure you can do that. Then we will manifest it I guess is the word... bring it to life. We add Sharpie on a plywood panel. Then we sand it,” Skogstrom explained.
While this process may sound simple, it’s important to remember that wood comes in all shapes, shades, and sizes.
"We buy sheet goods. We have a template we have to work through, but we also have to respond to the wood. That is such an indicative aspect of woodworking. You bring in 10% more because you know you’ll have to pick and choose.”
Skogstrom says woodworking requires a specific and intentional process, and that’s why he doesn’t necessarily see his practice to be an artform. Because to him, art has no limitations.
“I’ve always bounced back and forth because what I worry about with the creative project is that I don’t have the technical skill to pull off,” Skogstrom said. “So with the pieces I do, each time I learn new woodworking skills, my artwork gets more nuanced. I like it to be impressive and look difficult to make. A level of craftsmanship that you envy. If you take nothing else from it, I want you to be impressed by the quality and skills involved. That’s where the woodworking and artwork overlap.”
As Skogstrom looks ahead at expanding his business and as he moves out of the pandemic boom, he’s purchased a machine to take his work to the next level.
“It planes wood to a thinner size, pushing it in and pulling it out ... they carve the material down. But you have to work so hard to get it in here. I’m pretty excited about it, I’m geeking out,” Skogstrom said.
With the help of his new planer, Skogstrom will be able to complete customized wooden pieces that much faster. You can inquire about Geodesic’s custom pieces at GeoDesignChicago.com.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.