• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.

A Visionary Woodworker

Although his classic self-designed and hand-built furniture found its way to the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian, Sam Maloof, who passed away recently at 93, preferred to describe himself simply as "Woodworker."

Completely self-taught, after he served in the Army during World War II, Mr. Maloof became one of the premier woodworkers and designers in the country. His bustling home, workplace and Discovery Garden spread over six acres in Alta Loma, California, draws visiting artisans, high school woodworking classes and gardeners learning about multiple uses from near and far.

Born in a family of nine children of Lebanese immigrants, Sam Maloof had the character traits of authenticity, elegance, consistency and creativity. He was dedicated to constantly refining his chairs, tables, desks, cabinets and his famous rocking chair. For about twenty years, he made no profit. Now his chairs sell for $20,000 or more each.

As he progressed, his horizons extended into what is now a veritable movement ensconced in the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts. (www.malooffoundation.org).

A measure of the man?s spirit is reflected in these words about his work:

Craftsmen in any media know the satisfaction that comes in designing and making an object from raw material. Mine comes from working in wood. Once you have breathed, smelled, and tasted the tanginess of wood and have handled it in the process of giving it form, there is nothing, I believe, that can replace the complete satisfaction granted. Working a rough piece of wood into a complete, useful object is the welding together of man and material.

The exquisite manual workmanship of Mr. Maloof is further stimulating the questioning of the remoteness that modern technology visits on so many people who spend hours in virtual reality, separated from nature and its materials. Our country was built by craftsmen, artisans and other workers who designed and made real things. High Schools offered Shop Class, where students learned skills and the joy of creating. These classes opened doors to a source of livelihood?and pride?for budding artisans.

With the nineteenth century industrial revolution and mass production employing masses of workers, these independent craftsmen tried to remain independent contractors and not become what they called "wage slaves" in giant, often dangerous, factories.

Jeremy Adamson, who organized an exhibition of Mr. Maloof?s work in 2001 at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, remarked that Maloof was a "beacon for woodworkers around the world. That furniture will last forever." The Master used no nails or metal hardware. The designs evolved as he worked. Clearly he possessed stunning visualization capacities. Imagine, he fit the chairs to the human bodies. "You can’t help but stroke the darn things," Mr. Adamson added.

Starting in 1952 with a small house in a citrus grove at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, Mr. Maloof added 16 additional rooms branded with his unique use of woods, shapes and function.

In a new book titled Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford, the author bemoaned the closing at high schools all over the United States of shop classes that taught the mechanical arts like carpentry, woodworking, welding and other skills. They were closed to allow more funding of computer labs. And because our throw-away society no longer properly values the fruits of artisan labor.

Crawford goes on to argue and demonstrate what our society loses when we make joining the paper economy the chief aspiration of the younger generations or to use Robert Reich?s phrase to become "symbolic analysts." Somebody has to keep the real world running maintained, repaired and replaced?something we realize very quickly when things don?t work in our households.

The draining of gratification from work in a techno-computerized environment is a widespread condition for millions of people, apart from the automated severance of their judgment and discretion by command and control positions.

Sam Maloof and his wife Barbara prepared his legacy meticulously. His philosophy and nature-related work increasingly steeped in sustainable practices will continue through his many students, trained practitioners and emulators.

He always found a way to wrap his zest in a few personal words. "I hope," he once said, "that my happiness with what I do is reflected in my furniture that it is vibrant, alive, and friendly to the people who use it."

Sam Maloof steadfastly looked ahead. Maybe this is why, in spite of clients waiting years for delivery, he would jump to the head of the line those parents who wanted a cradle for their infants.

RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)