An artisan may master a particular approach, but a true craftsman like Peter Rolfe can create objects that look like space-alien furniture in one case … then turn around and build a lotus-inspired storage sculpture that could have been crafted for an ancient emperor somewhere in the orient. At first glance, they look surreal – like the results of a 3D rendering rather than the hard work of one profoundly talented design and craft professional.
He calls his own works ‘sculptural’ – and they clearly constitute a serious departure in design and construction strategies from conventional classics. They are also intended to be seen as clearly man-made works … but ones inspired by natural forms. The above piece has smooth shining spheres that seem abstract and geometric but are strung together on a curving and naturalistic set of stalks. The drawers work as expected, so it’s as functional as you need a cabinet to be, albeit on the small side.
This fascinating unfolding lotus is impressive in terms of its delicate and complex forms, subtle details and elegant material choices. However, just as amazing are the moving parts – from the fold-down leaves that form its outer shell to the pull-out drawers hidden within. There’s nothing quite like this that we’ve seen, testimony to Rolfe’s unique vision for sculptural wooden furniture.
Other objects Rolfe has crafted appear to be more traditional and are certainly more immediately recognizable as functional furniture. Even these, though, reflect extremely careful design decisions from the wood types used to make them to the custom curves, beveled edges, contrasting colors and fine-tuned finishing touches.
With a little training, almost anyone can become a woodworker. But it takes a rare visionary artist to craft wooden objects quite so creative as these ones, and we only wish to see much more from this craftsman in the future.