Quality is at the core of everything Sean Woolsey makes. From laser-cut wooden coasters and handmade furniture through to carefully crafted lighting and paintings on sheet metal, Wolsey creates pieces that effortlessly fuse form and function. Two years ago the former apparel designer left his work in the action sports industry in order to carve out a career from his craft. CH caught up with Woolsey in his Costa Mesa workshop to discuss furniture, fads and the freedom that results from owning less.
When did you start creating?
I have been creating art for about 10 years now. However, for about seven years I owned and designed my own apparel line and then worked in the action sports industry. Both sides of my family tree contain artistic people. My father has been one of my biggest influences: he had a career in architectural art and also was a talented photographer. My latest works of art are "other-worldly" paintings done on sheet metal using patinas, paints and solvents. The resulting paintings are ethereal images reminiscent of photos of outer space from the Hubble telescope. My more recent expansion into producing furniture and lighting began about two years ago, after I constructed pieces for myself. I discovered that I enjoy doing it and that there are people who desire better quality, hand crafted furniture and accessories made in the USA.
What was the first proper piece of furniture you made?
I made an escritoire for my girlfriend (now wife) which we still have in our house today. It is made of two-by-fours, four-by-fours, a piece of butcher block and oak casters. I recently completed a famous George Nakashima chair design known as the Conoid chair. The chair is black walnut and it took about 60 hours to make. It is absolutely beautiful. This was the first chair I ever made. It is definitely my favorite piece and I will probably own it forever.
What else have you been working on?
Right now I am working with several clients to furnish their entire workspace or house. It has been exciting developing a palette and tone that reflects the personality of the clients, and then designing and building with that in mind. There is something about creating for an entire space that is very special for me. It is a way for me to connect with other people's subconscious.
How did the coasters come about?
Wanting to preserve the finish on my handmade furniture, I decided I wanted to design a set of coasters. I wanted them to look cool, yet be classic and substantial enough to use proudly for years. With that in mind, I produced laser-engraved wooden coasters with a manly feel to them. They come as a set of four, each one being labeled with one of my favorite beverages: coffee, bourbon, whiskey, and scotch. I also made 50 limited-edition black walnut cases for the coasters. Each case is hand numbered and branded with my "SW" logo. The walnut makes a classy little home for the coasters to live in on your table.
Given your furniture business, what are your thoughts on places like IKEA?
We live in a world and an age in which most consumers buy things for the moment; we exist in a disposable consumer society, where a lot of people make impulsive, trendy buys. I am subject to this as well, but consciously I have decided to try and only buy things I need and buy things of lasting value, that I may be proud to own. Right now there is a paradigm shift with some consumers consciously avoiding overseas, mass production items to searching out high-quality and locally made, sustainable objects, and luckily my customers understand this very well and support me. One of the best parts of what I do is actually interacting and developing a relationship with my customers.