Talent is usually a part of someone’s craft that defines them in many ways. Luckily, some are a bit more diverse than just their talent. Artists today are multifaceted people who use their skills and personality in various aspects of their lives. It is very rare to witness one artist’s progression and admire the fact that they remain true to themselves. One such artist is none other than furniture star, Patrick Kana. Patrick’s exquisite work with wood and other mediums within the furniture world is one of a kind. It is also worth noting, the man is a respectful and kind professional in his field. On that note, Mr. Kana took some time away from his tinkering to share his elaborate developments and work to date.
Patrick has been an artist for many years but never truly refined his search until later on. “My endeavor into the art world happened via a fairly natural, yet unplanned progression. I had always been one to make things with my hands growing up, but by no means had considered myself an artist, nor did I consider it a potential profession. Once I was exposed to formal training in my apprenticeships and in college, my passion for creating things began to play a more prominent role and manifest itself as an actuality. Being an independent artist though, was still a reach at that point. I was, and still am fortunate to have fantastic mentors and instructors who were integral to getting me and my thought-process to where it is today. When you love what you do, it’s easy to stay on task and keep pushing yourself because it doesn’t feel like work. Before I knew it, I had a few custom orders right out of school, and never looked back.”
It seems like the man is always on the move with his work. A prime example is a few of his personal favorites. “It’s always hard to pick favorites, because every piece has a little different flavor. When making things in wood, projects can take weeks or months if you want to play nice with the material, so the experience I have with each one can be drastically different. A few of my favorites would be my Geneva Chairs and my wall-mounted vessel Arris from my graduate thesis show, Forma Naturalis.”
“These two are fundamentally different. The Geneva Chair was designed over the course of a full year, testing and testing again different elements of it to get it ready for small-batch production. There was a rigor in the design process, which paid off in the final product, both in terms of look and feel, but also in sales. It always excited me to think there are Geneva Chairs throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. I’m particularly excited about the Geneva Armless, which I designed later.”
“While in graduate school at the School for American Crafts at RIT, my work went through a drastic transformation. Previously, I was concerned with what the public would want or like, but in grad school, I focused on the experience and the making process that satisfied me. Of anything, this was a conscious shift I made to direct my focus toward the fine art realm, rather than design realm. I created a body of work, Forma Naturalis, which blended my love and influences of the natural and botanical world with the focused skills I gained in apprenticing with master furniture makers.”
“Of that body of work, Arris, a small wall-mounted vessel with a singular leg reaching toward the floor, was both the greatest struggle and greatest success. I completed roughly 90% of the piece, and got to an impasse where the wood would not cooperate with the form. The parts and pieces sat on a shelf for 4 months while I tested and explored every solution. As simple as it sounds, I arrived at the realization that an opaque painted surface can enhance the simplicity of a form far better than natural wood, because there is no wood grain to distract or confuse the viewer. In the end, while it was one of the smallest pieces in my show, it became the most rewarding based on a true discovery of something new for me.”
His ambition remains strong as new and more detailed work comes into the picture. “The ideal piece is always the next piece I get the opportunity to make. Every piece I make raises new challenges and excitement, and that leads to new ideas for future work. So whenever I get the go-ahead from a client or from myself to create something new, I try to pull ideas from that memory bank of challenges and sketches. It’s like an endless chase, but the most satisfying chase. Legendary furniture artist Wendell Castle says it the best, ‘If you hit the bullseye every time the target it too near.’”
Working with wood can be a long and arduous process. “My most difficult piece to date was definitely Incrementa, a six foot long, fully sculpted bench. Compositionally, it was all about recognizing what the wood planks wanted to be in relation to how I wanted to shape them. I had three remaining pieces of soft maple I had milled three years prior, and challenged myself to merge them seamlessly together. When I realized where they could join, it was an arduous process of determining jigs and fixtures that would actually allow them to join successfully and structurally. I combined quasi-machinist techniques with traditional woodworking skills to arrive at the structure that could then be carved into the sinuous form it became. Merging that with a custom sawn limestone block was icing on the cake!”
In regard to the art space, Patrick had his own thoughts. “Whenever people refer to the art world these days, they usually are referring to the financial side, what sells, what is in fashion and does the artist fit that niche. Maybe it’s foolish, but I tend to stay away from what critics say and continue to do my own thing. It feels better that way. In the furniture design world, it’s clear what is in fashion today, every other woodworker seems to be making the same thing to fill the demand. Quite frankly, I don’t see it as a sustainable market, and so much of the work appears the same. I don’t see much personality in what sells these days. I’d rather stay on my own course of discovery, and continue developing my own signature look.”
Patrick in his undergraduate days at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, was always seen sailing the waters of the great Seneca Lake. It would come at no surprise his dream piece would be right up his alley. “I’ve always dreamt of building wooden boats. As a lifelong sailor, it seems fitting, so I look forward to it materializing someday. Boat-builders are a different breed than furniture makers, they use wood in ways that we as furniture makers would never, and they truly think of the material as plastic and malleable. It’s hard not to be inspired by a well-built wooden boat, especially when you get the chance to sail one.”
Mr. Kana has also been eager to keep pushing the limits in the material he uses. “Of recently, I’ve been particularly fascinated with patternmaking and machinist techniques. I’m hoping to incorporate more custom formed hardware and components as prominent elements in my work to come. While metalworking and welding has such immediate satisfaction, machining seems to parallel the patience associated with woodworking. Even though it’s new to me, it seems like a natural extension to the work that I do, and I’m looking forward to doing more of it.”
Thankfully, Patrick was not alone as he developed his skills. He shared a few people who have supported him along the way. “… I have three: Peter Dudley, Vicco Von Voss, and Sam Castner, all of whom I’m very close with after multiple long-term apprenticeships. Being surrounded by their work ethic, studio practices, and finished pieces while I was younger was always an awesome experience, in the true sense of the term. I’ll proudly say that my current work incorporates different elements, techniques, and motifs from each of them. I’ll also say, it’s no easy feat reaching for the bar that they set so high early on for me.”
There is no doubt that this artist will soon become a household name as his customer base continues to grow. For people with an eye for original and handmade treasure, take a gander at Mr. Kana’s portfolio, an investment with him will be well worth it.