The graceful lines of Michael Doerr’s award-winning furniture style reflect his outlook on design and craftsmanship. As he puts it, it is a way to not only express oneself as an artist, but to leave behind a legacy for others to not only follow and study as well as connect the past with the present.
“Because the tree once lived, every cutting of new wood is dynamic, a challenge to combine the best flow of grain with design and so honor the beauty and life of the tree,” he says in his artist statement.
Doerr began his career as a boat builder in Central Wisconsin working for master shipwright Ferdinand (Red) Nimphius. It was there that Doerr says he learned how to incorporate large curves into his projects.
After three years he left and began creating his own furniture pieces. Doerr says he was introduced to the style of famed chair designer Sam Maloof when his father gave him a book on his designs.
In 1989 he started Doerr Woodworking, located in Sturgeon Bay, WI, in the heart of beautiful Door County, which is home to artists and artisans. Doerr quickly began showing his work across the country on the craft and art show circuits.
Doerr shares the skills he has developed over the years by teaching classes on chair construction and design at his Sturgeon Bay workshop as well as at institutions, including Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking and Northern Michigan University.
For this featured project, the Torso Chair for which he was internationally recognized, Doerr says a client from New Jersey wanted a rocking chair for his pregnant wife. However, he didn’t want a Sam Maloof-style chair. So Doerr came up with the idea of tracing the torso of his own wife, Bobbi, to get the shape for the subtle curves carved into the back.
“What you see is the whole relief of the female form,” he explains. “The goal was to have a complete chair and not a compilation of parts.”
The back of the chair, created from black walnut, is carved on two planes — left and right and the back curves from top to bottom for lumbar support, allowing the lower body to rest into the seat, which is concave and slumps to the center from left to right and from right to left.
The thickness of the seat is approximately 1-3/4 to 1-7/8-inch thick and the cut in the bottom of the seat is curved and is approximately 3/8-inches thick.
Doerr says he starts with his bandsaw to create the profile and then the grinder is used to smooth the wood on the edges. The finish is a hand rubbed oil that he blends in the shop. The whole process of creating a chair takes approximately 50 hours.
For more information about Michael Doerr and his chair designs, visit MichaelDoerr.com.
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