Shaker it up: a New York studio’s modern take on the American farmhouse aesthetic
In upstate New York, sculptor and woodworker Jonah Meyer relies on time-tested techniques to create updated designs at his furniture company Sawkille Co. ‘We do many things the old-fashioned way, by default and by choice,’ he says. ‘All of the hand work is informed by traditional wood working – the technology is about 100 years old and our work would look pretty much the same back then, which is crazy.’
Meyer, who trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, is heavily influenced by his back-to-the-roots upbringing: his parents, a potter and a goldsmith, raised him in Pennsylvania, pursuing their dreams of homesteading and respective crafts. As a result, Sawkille’s furniture ranges from modern variations of classic Windsor chairs, Shaker benches and spindle-leg stools, to a collection of sanded and stained tree trunks (aptly named, ‘Stumps’).
‘Stumps’ table by Sawkille Co
This minimal approach should not be confused with simplistic. ‘I do a lot of drawing and prototyping,’ Meyer says. ‘The details start to emerge as the piece comes together and most often the piece will have a few generations of development over time before the design feels completed.’
However, the latest additions to Meyer’s core furniture line push the limits of this established American farmhouse aesthetic with modern shapes, inlay and paint. ‘Our newest pieces are more far out – I pulled a lot of the [furniture] elements from my sculptures,’ Meyer explains. This means expanding the material palette from his repertoire of northeast hardwoods like black walnut, sycamore and tiger maple and incorporating birch bark, marble, leather and steel. ‘The inlay and the graphic elements are all informed by my art and drawing,’ he adds.
New works include the bleached wood ’Minna’ chair with a geometric leather seat and backrest, an asymmetrical bench with a Windsor back and a slatted chair with one armrest featuring a carved cup holder, as well as more organic pieces like a chandelier made from branches and Stump-inspired tables. ‘We have a consistent approach to Sawkille designs, but we have recently felt to deviate and see what happens,’ says Meyer. ‘I don’t think anyone’s creative self is fulfilled by repeatedly sanding the same shape for years.’