John Thoe

Dining chair with sculpted, curved legs and a cushioned seat

The chairs are the real design of my body of work. The chair is classic. What sets it apart from other chairs today and the past is that viewed horizontally it is composed of gently curved legs with straight rails for the seat contrasting vertically as a half ellipse shape that mimics the table top viewed vertically. The chairs are best set 3-4 inches from the edge of the table to accentuate the connection between chair and table, a bit of fabric showing for a detail accent. The rails of the chair have a slight taper from the center of the front rail that has a gentle concave arch of 2.5 inches in the center toward 3.38" height in the center of the rear rail on the Linnea and Neo chair. The negative space of the chair is what I'm most excited about. I believe people unconsciously recognize the these shapes. Viewed horizontally, ALL these shapes are roughly trapezoidal ( 4 sided with one pair of parallel lines ). The rails are all generally straight, as is the floor and the legs have these gentle curves that connect floor and rail to form a rectangle that has similarities to all the other negative spaces in the chair. Each and everyone of these negative spaces create both a convex and concave shape. All these shapes change as you walk around the chair but still hold the basic shape.

I first learned woodcarving in the mountains of Norway at the age of seventeen, while spending my senior year going to school in a small town in the Telemark region. My teacher, Kjitel Hesteledalen, was a local woodcarver who had been trained in the traditional Norwegian Baroque and Rococo styles of carving. He was also something of an anarchist and believed in experimenting with new forms and in using a diversity of styles. I trace my own interest in experimental designs and diverse styles of carving to Kjitel's early influence.

I entered college upon my return home, but after a year was drafted into the Army. While in the army, I spent one year on the First Infantry Division Parachute Team as a skydiver, doing exhibition skydiving events in 16 states. Perhaps the only draftee ever to become a recruiter. After my service, I returned to college at the University of Iowa. I graduated in 1978 with a BFA in sculpture. In 1976, I spent the year studying Art History in Kiel, West Germany. At the end of my year in Kiel I returned to Norway once again to study with Kjitel. During this time I concentrated on mastering the design and craftsmanship of traditional Norwegian Kubbestolen, or traditional chairs carved from tree trunks. In 1982, I started my own furniture business designing period style furniture and sculpted modern furniture in Iowa City. In 1987, I moved to Seattle and replaced burned-out carved panels in the Episcopal Dioceses Leary Mansion on Capitol Hill.

I thoroughly enjoy creating pieces that coordinate with existing furniture and architecture. Many of these pieces began as a rough sketch of someone's fantasy, details from which I use in my design. Currently, my personal work is inspired by nature. I have pieces in the lobby of the Washington Athletic Club, and The Sunset Club on Capitol Hill in Seattle, The Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon, and in many prominent west and east coast homes.