Sam Maloof, 1916-2009

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It would be a cliche to call Sam Maloof an inspiration… he was that for far too many woodworkers and artisans to count. I was saddened to learn that Maloof died last thursday at the age of 93.

Maloof called himself simply a woodworker but his influence on contemporary and arts and crafts furniture movements was enormous, far too big to calculate and far more than he himself would have ever acknowledged. Legendary for his humility as well as his formidable abilities, Maloof will be missed.

His signature rocking chairs could easily fetch over $100k at auction and the Smithsonian, which features a Maloof rocking chair in their permanent collection, called him “America’s most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman”. Maloof is perhaps the only person who could bring together former presidents Carter and Reagan… both men enjoyed Maloof rockers while in the White House. Equally at home in a Southern California ranch house and the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Maloof’s lifework achieved represented the pinnacle of craftsmanship for original designs executed with technical ability and innovation that few people possess.

I never had the chance to meet the man, although he certainly appeared approachable enough simply by visiting his workshop (which is included in the National Registry of Historic Places). From the many interviews he granted it did appear evident that in spite of the accolades and fame that he long ago began receiving, he still came across as a genuinely nice and generous human being.

Future generations will refer to Sam Maloof with the same reverence reserved for Thomas Chippendale, John Goddard, Charles and Henry Greene, Charles and Ray Eames, and many others who were the best of their era.

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On This Memorial Day

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

- Thucydides

I see far too many news stories on Memorial Day that feature images of picnics and parades with a story line that “honors all that serve”. This is greatly in error and devalues the solemn nature of Memorial Day, a day to remember those who fell on the battleground in service to their country.

General John A. Logan wrote in his order creating Memorial Day in 1868:

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.