I am not a woodworker but I know a grizzly bear who is.
Had I been a woodworker I might have known that I have recently relocated to the town where once lived one of the greatest woodworkers of all time. Now that last descriptor is all mine, neither the woodworker nor the grizzly made that claim, but I am sticking with it. The man won a MacArthur Fellowship for heaven’s sake. Most of us call the MacArthur Fellowship the “Genius Awards”. I saw hanging on a wall in his house, a legit certificate certifying that this woodworker was in fact a genius.
This woodworker, the famous one not the grizzly, was Sam Maloof.
“No, this guy didn’t own the Kings. He made a rocking chair. Yes a rocking chair. So do you wanna go with me to his house or what? No, its a cool rocking chair. Shut up. Do you wanna go or not?”
I think that’s pretty much how the conversation went. While generally an idiot I am occasionally smart enough to listen to Kaleo Kala and we drove down the street to visit the house Sam Maloof. Good heavens am I glad I did because this guy, this carpenter from Chino, if judged by his house, was the coolest man to ever live.
Okay that may be an overstatement, but his house is almost exactly what I wish for when I drift off to my happy place.
Its not just the house, its everything about the house. Its everything in the house. It is a house that became a museum the day the inhabitant passed away. This means that this guy created a space and place to live, and did it so well, that everyone else wanted to come and see it. And so we did.
When I say created I mean he built the house. He designed it bit by bit, adding on to it with time and when funds became available. It isn’t a box to live in, because it grew with time, grew out of his mind, it became this organic living thing. It became… interesting. I crave interesting.
Interesting was everywhere in that place.
The furniture was all custom, the art on the walls was all original, and every item had a story behind it. It looked good. It was comfortable. It was interesting and t was real.
Real. Real like the Navajo rugs were obtained from a Navajo down on the reservation. The bell up on that bell tower was salvaged from an old church down in New Mexico. The kachina dolls were from a Hopi not a factory. Well, except one kachina that he made himself. But the idea that he made one adds to the interest of the item. There was pottery from Egypt, that he got in Egypt, African masks that he got in Africa, and the most beautiful wood canoe I have ever seen hanging from a vaulted ceiling. It was a real canoe, hand made by some guy but I don’t think it ever made it into a body of water. It was a useful item made so beautifully that it became art.
There were books everywhere. Family photos. Dishes and silverware that had never seen the inside of a big box store. There was stained glass, old things, new things. Straight lines and curved lines. Al of this stuff that spoke and told stories despite the man having passed.
Mr. Maloof and I never met. I know little of how he treated people, but I think I want to be him. Or at least I want to be the kind of guy who can create the sort of things he created, either directly or by assembly. Man did he do it right.
Have you ever been to a candy store, when you don’t really like candy, but there was a kid there and it was fun to watch? I haven’t, but I’m guessing it would be much the same as seeing Kaleo at Sam Maloof’s house. Its like I, and most all of us, are ducks, then we go to Mr. Maloof’s house and I look over next to me and doggone it if Kaleo isn’t really a swan. Its fun to watch a swan in its element.
He was the only one in our tour group that was more excited to see the wood shed than the actual house.