The Art of Constant Change

The Art of Constant Change

Leviathan desk by Sarah Marriage

Leviathan, 2013, tambour desk in English Sycamore. Photo: Frank Green

Furniture-maker Sarah Marriage fondly remembers an exercise from her first few weeks at College of the Redwoods called “the perfect board.” The charge: Take a raw piece of lumber and create a board that is perfectly flat, with exact 90-degree corners. Once you’ve done that, cut it in half, glue the halves together, and make it perfect again.
 
“The point is, wood is a moving material,” Marriage explains, “so even once you get it perfect, it’s never going to be perfect forever. It’ll move by the next day.”
 
Continual movement is something she knows well. Before landing at College of the Redwoods, Marriage had left the architecture program at Princeton University during her junior year, moved back to her family’s home in Alaska, found her way again to the East Coast, and put in several years at an elite structural engineering firm in lower Manhattan. Despite the multiple detours, the 35-year-old knew early in her undergraduate architecture studies that she wanted to pursue furniture.
 
“I wanted to make the things I was designing, and I felt like furniture was a scale that I could handle,” she says. She discovered furniture legend James Krenov, and then, in the pages of Fine Woodworking, saw an ad for his famed furniture program at College of the Redwoods. She was on her way.
 
Since graduating in 2013, she’s kept busy: She has a six-month studio fellowship at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship through January, after a stint as a technical assistant at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. This past summer she was elected to the board of trustees of the Furniture Society. Recently, she was awarded the $25,000 John D. Mineck Furniture Fellowship by the Society of Arts and Crafts to create a cooperative for female furniture makers. 
 
Marriage’s own experience is driving her focus on female makers; as she pointed out in her fellowship proposal, she has frequently been asked if the furniture she was showing was the work of her husband. 
 
“People just don’t expect us to be furniture makers,” she says. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a shop together, and just like ‘power in numbers,’ made a bigger presence by being together?”
 
Marriage’s momentum in the field suggests she’s building a presence of her own. Her tambour desk, Leviathan, showcases her Krenovian training in its effortless details and apparent weightlessness atop elegantly curved legs. Her latest piece, Frog Pond Table, displays her technical finesse while stepping outside of Krenov’s tradition in favor of rougher edges.
 
Beyond her one-of-a-kind studio pieces, Marriage’s evolving vision includes production lines of furniture.
 
“When I’m in between projects, I zoom out and look at that vision and that hierarchy and set of objects that I want to be making,” she says. “It’s all still in its infancy. It’s all really exciting right now.”