Our latest issue of Mpls.St.Paul Home hit newsstands earlier this month, and one of my favorite pieces gets at the backstory of custom furniture maker Willie Willette. Although we see beautiful works by craftspeople like him from time to time, it’s not often that we see their studios or learn about the inspiration and the trial-and-error parts of the design process. But returning from a vacation (and a break from blogging!) that took in the Côte d’Azur homes and studios of great twentieth-century artists, such as Matisse and Picasso, has renewed my interest in learning more about how and where artists and artisans right here in the Twin Cities work. So, I thought I’d share a few of the shots I took when I visited with Willie for our story.
Here’s the main shop just upstairs from Cupcake in Minneapolis’s Prospect Park neighborhood. It’s part of a 5,000-square-foot space that includes storage for all kinds of wood, much of it reclaimed from old buildings as well as number of table saws and other woodworking tools.
This is the office/planning part of the workspace. Dozens of books on design fill the shelves. It has an industrial mood perfect for getting the wheels moving on a cool project.
Willie (here he is!) and his artisans use a lot of local lumber, including pieces with raw edges. Many people are asking for tables that preserve that rough quality, bark and all. The finished products are gorgeous.
This is probably my favorite shot although I’ll admit it doesn’t do the gorgeous furniture much justice. We ran a photo of the finished Melissa chair (named after a client) in the magazine, but this shows you a few of the prototypes (there were 10) Willie produced for the custom piece. The final product, which Willie hopes to put into wider production, is made of walnut from Minnesota and features a three-inch leather cushion.
See the Fall issue of Mpls.St.Paul Home for more on Willie’s finished pieces and to get the source information for eleven other local furniture makers. They may have just the idea for a furniture piece made perfectly for you.