Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Craftsman's Jungle Gym: The Amazing Wharton Esherick House

While still in PA we took the time to make a reservation and drive out to the Wharton Esherick House and Museum. One of the great benefits of working at a major art museum is all the artwork. My first encounter with an Esherick piece was a wood carved fireplace hearth and mantel at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on permanent display in the American section, close to the Thomas Eakins galleries. It is an amazing display of wood craftsmanship. Unique and customized in every way. This is Esherick's signature, his ability to use and reuse wood and transform ordinary into extraordinary.

We where fortunate enough to have the previous director of the museum/house give us the tour. As one of the stories goes, a neighbor had scrap wood lying around, Esherick asked if he could have it. Weeks later the wood appeared in Esherick's house as a uniquely shaped and stained floor boards. He had the neighbor over and showed him the floor. Jokingly the neighbor said, 'that's the last time I give away scrap wood to Esherick.' A typical Esherick story. He seemed to have a fascination with monkeys and his house is a crooked exotic spiraling carved monkey's jungle gym with a plethora of inventive gadgets to make all the requirements of everyday life fit and work in such a small multi-level home.

Though photography is not permitted inside, photography would not do justice to the actual experience of the smells and textures. Guests are invited to touch the work, and it is very appealing to touch. It is one of the most unique and interesting museums/ homes. The tours are small since the sp
aces in the house are small. Everything inside is either collected or built by Esherick. A fascinating individual. This is passion, ingenuity and commitment at its highest level on display. No woodworker or artisan should miss a tour of this amazing place. I love it when I leave a place or experience and feel that my work is totally inadequate. It steps up your game and makes you want to create something more than ever. About a 30-40 minute drive outside of Philly, to learn more check out the Wharton Esherick website.