Conversations with Artists 

June 12, 2013

In conjunction with our inaugural CSA program, Handmade in America has started it’s “Conversations with Artists” series. Follow our blog to learn more about this year’s CSA artists: where they work, who they are, and what inspires them.  

HandMade in America talks with CSA artist Christopher Perryman


When did you decide to become and artist and why?

I’ve always made things with my hands. Its always felt like something I had to do as opposed to a choice.

Why or how did you choose your medium?

I crept into wood via working as a delivery guy for an interior design shop and furniture store. Ironically, I come from a woodworking family but didn’t arrive at wood through them. I was also born in High Point, historically, the furniture capital of the world.

If you weren’t doing this work, what would you do?

Maybe chef.

Could you talk a little about why you love what you do?

I feel most natural when I make things by hand. Sometimes its more creative than others. There is certainly a sweet spot when something that’s creatively engaging intersects with a manual challenge and the two marry successfully. Especially when that effort finds some value in the world outside my shop and I can introduce something, even a small thing, to the human experience that is completely new; an object to interact with that has never exactly been seen before.

What is it about your work that brings you into the studio every day?

The quest for the sweet spot referenced in the answer above. Also, bills to pay.

Do you have any other creative pursuits?

I like to cook.

How long have you been working in your medium?

I cobbled together little soap box derby/jalopy-ish kinda thing from twisted scrap wood to ride down the hill in my neighborhood when I was in the 3rd grade. So, almost 20 years. What would you say informs you work? Regarding functional woodwork: the needs of the end user, ergonomics, decently intelligent design, and cost effectiveness. In work that’s less than strictly functional, irony. Usually dark irony.

Who or what are your major influences?

NC-based wood sculptor Bob Trotman as well as scores of other top-tier local woodworkers, Russian graphic artist Alexander Rodchenko, Joseph Beuys, Danish design, historic culinary objects, my own family history and many other things.

What’s your design process like?

If I work on a commission, I sit with a client and we go step-by-step through needs, options, problems, solutions, tastes, and budget. If I work on something for myself, I have a place I think I want to go creatively, then I try to get there through the maze of my own creative exploration. Inevitably I hit walls, rework my strategy, the work piece, the end goal, etc. and try again.

Can you give me an example of something that inspired a particular piece of work?

I like prompts. I like having someone setting some parameters for me or I can spin in creative circles, seeing too many options. Once I built a piece from wood recycled from a table that belonged to the clients late grandfather in the 1940’s. The new piece was actually going to serve as a small stand to hold a steamer chest that had traveled the world  during the 1920’s with a late great-grandmother. A “Day-of-the-Dead” theme developed with-in the piece leading to carved imagery and icons that lamented and celebrated our own mortality. It was an unexpected place I arrived that wouldn’t have been possible without the very premise of working with the ancestral material.

 How do you choose your color palettes/materials?

I prefer simple, understated colors, neutrals and contrast.

Does the region inspire your work?

Outside of the other makers who are here, I think the region is inherent in my work. I can’t help being influenced by my surroundings. I think I generally, actively, look for inspiration outside the region.

How has your work changed over the years?

In some ways. I’m learning to appreciate smaller things. I’m learning to say more with fewer expressions…..I hope.

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