20 Minutes with Omar Angel Perez

Friday 6 July 2018

In Omar Angel perez's opinion, the colour, texture and even the smell of exotic woods is intrinsically beautiful. Born in Houston, Texas in 1963, he went on to study fine arts and graphic design at university. His artistry as a woodworker is mostly self-taught; a culmination of years of fine craft furniture building. His background also led him into the world of television animation and design where in 2004, he won an Emmy Award for excellence in broadcast graphics.

F&C: What are you working on at

the moment?

Omar Angel Perez: I'm working on a 6ft diameter dining table in rosewood (Guibourtia demeusei), curly maple (Acer campestre) and ebony (Diospyros spp.) The base will be a very interesting sculptural pedestal in bronze. I've never had bronze cast before so it's very exciting – and expensive. And learning the process of casting bronze is very intriguing.

F&C: Why did you become a furniture maker?

OP: I had always been very hands- on and building things as a child. When I was in college, I finally decided that I would not have cinder block shelving anymore. So I made some very crude shelves from scavenged building sites, and that's how it started.

F&C: What inspires you?

OP: My degree is in graphic design so I draw inspiration from a variety of sources such as architecture, fine art, industrial design and even fashion as well.

F&C: If your furniture were music, what kind of music would it be?

OP: My heritage is Latin so I would have to say a sexy salsa vibe would be my choice.

F&C: What do you admire in the craft at the moment?

OP: In the midst of the global financial crisis, I admire the fact that there are still hard working people who use their hands and minds to create honest pieces of art that everyone can enjoy.

F&C: Who has been your greatest mentor/role model?

OP: My parents. My father made so many of our toys as children so at an early age I was exposed to the process of building things, including the splintered fingers and swearing. My mother painted and was very involved in the arts. The foundation for my artistic direction and work ethic was shaped by them and I'm truly grateful.

F&C: What comes first, design

or technique?

OP: As an artist, I would have to say the design comes first. I am ultimately intrigued by a piece of furniture and how it coexists in its three-dimensional space. I am just as interested in the sculptural quality of a piece of furniture as I am in its meticulous execution and technique.

F&C: Are we too obsessed with outdated modes of work?

OP: I wouldn't say we're obsessed with outdated modes of work, in fact, I think that many of the basic methods used in woodworking have been around for centuries and have stood the test of time. I do, however, feel that we as woodworkers should look at other fields of craftsmanship for new inspiration and techniques. It is fascinating to see the methods used by metal workers, industrial designers and even fashion designers.

F&C: How or where do you exhibit your work?

OP: My wife and I have designed our house as a studio/showroom. We host openings, art tours and designer visits regularly. I also am a big fan of electronic media venues, so much of my work will simultaneously be on my website, Facebook page, email and design blogs. In fact, much of my international coverage was prompted by my online presence.

F&C: How comfortable are you with working at someone else's design?

OP: I have to be honest by saying I'm not very comfortable with working with someone's design. I do work with a number of designers, but our relationship is such that I still design and create the piece myself.

F&C: What's your creative process like?

OP: Reflecting back on my pieces, the common idea that connects them all is actually a question. I find myself always asking, “why?†Why do the legs have to be rectangular shape? Why do the legs have to be connected to an apron? Why do there have to be four legs in the first place? To me, by asking, “why?” I can always create with an absolute blank and fresh perspective. The ideas are limitless when you have no preexisting boundaries holding you back… then I start sketching.

F&C: Do you consider yourself an artist of a craftsman?

OP: I'm an artist creating functional art furniture. But, the fine woodworking audience is very fickle and they recognise the value of the art as well as exceptional craftsmanship. So I would say I also strive to be the best craftsman I can be.

F&C: What's the practical process you take when moving through a project?

OP: Most often my process begins with a client meeting to discuss the kind of furniture they are looking for and to see their surroundings. After this initial meeting I have enough information to sketch three different ideas. At this point I have not worked out all the details, I am just seeing what the client is comfortable with.

I will present these at the next meeting along with material samples. Many times this is what we need to get started with the project. For larger pieces, after this second meeting an elevation drawing will be drawn to make sure all parties are comfortable with the direction before signing off on the design. Construction then starts which can vary in time from a few months to sometimes over a year to complete. I certainly invite a client during this phase to first see materials, then a few times during construction as well. To me delivery is the most stressful part of the process; anything can happen, and has.

F&C: Do you think furniture making is in danger of disappearing?

OP: The very fact that ancient furniture has survived thousands of years tells me that furniture making will never disappear.

F&C: What advice would you give to someone starting out?

OP: It's certainly important to have the basic tools and skills. Enrolling on a fine woodworking course is also a great tool. You will find that each project will enhance your knowledge and experience, so work on as many different pieces as you can. And when you are not building for a client, build for yourself. I also tell beginner woodworkers, or any artist, that I spend at least 50% of my time promoting my work. I can't tell you how many exceptional craftsmen are out there that you've never heard of. We can cut a perfect dovetail or do beautiful veneer work, but we are most afraid of telling the world that we can.

F&C: What irritates you about

the industry?

OP: Where are the ladies? Just kidding – sort of. I would love to see more women involved in our male dominated world of dust and wood smells. That's one of the reasons I created my Stilett'O' sculptures, by designing an over-the-top high heel I'm inviting women to enjoy the beauty and love of woodworking.