The Wonders of Woodworking
In Clint Parker's Oakland County garage studio, stunning furniture is in the works
When Clint Parker was a teenager growing up in Royal Oak, his older brother, Robert, once a journeyman carpenter, would take him along to help out on carpentry jobs. "My brother had been schooled in the 1960s, so he passed that knowledge to me," Parker recalls.
All of the Parkers had an artistic bent, and they're all still artists of one kind or another. Clint Parker took to wood. Today the man with a full gray beard, muscular arms, and strong hands from decades of wrestling with hunks of wood makes his living creating commissioned functional and decorative furniture and objects, and selling them online, at art galleries, or at furnishings shows. He creates these exquisite chairs, tables, chests, and boxes in his studio garage behind his Oakland County home, charging between $300 and $5,000 for his work.
Inside his tool-jammed studio, the smell of pine and linseed oil hang in the air. "I've always believed in working hard," he says, adding that his whole family shares the ethic. "You don't stop after eight hours. I sometimes work 18-hour days, go to sleep, and come right back."
During the winter months, he stays warm burning firewood in a stove in the studio corner. "There's nothing better than being out here in wintertime with the fire going, using hand tools," he says.
There's no doubt Parker loves what he does. "I'll have a project going and I'll be like a 10-year-old on Christmas morning, he says." One of his current creations — a gleaming round, single-pedestal maple table — awaits atop a workbench. Parker shaped the spirals that climb up the pedestal and shellacked the wood to give it a warm, buttery color. He's made others and the finished table, displayed on his website, is inviting. One could imagine a group around it, sharing a meal or a board game.
Some of his works "cross boundaries," Parker explains. He takes utilitarian objects such as chairs and pushes them "to an intellectual level." Says Parker: "They're uncomfortable, but awesome to look at. One is a high-backed chair created with a veneer finish that resembles gray-and-blue tiger skin. The veneer is from an Italian manufacturer, says Parker, who takes pieces of wood, dyes them, glues them together into a block, and cuts long strips on the bias. The veneer and the other wood he works with are sustainable and eco-friendly. "I try to do the right thing, to make honest objects that comfort the eye and soul, and need to be touched."
Respected by museum curators, he has done restorative work on furniture at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Cranbrook, and The Henry Ford. To be sure, he can't predict what his next commission might be — recently, a woman asked him to recreate Harry Potter's wooden wands.
Just back from a fine furnishings show, Parker says he's inspired from talking with other woodworkers, especially the newbies. "I'm fired up right now."