Rob started learning about wood and making furniture at the age of six, under the tutelage of his grandfather. He has worked with wood in some way or another for over sixty years. That’s enough time to be able to make quite a few pieces of firewood, as he puts it.
Rob first went to the University of Wisconsin at Superior, and majored in art. He then went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he majored in business administration and computer languages. A few years after graduating from college he and his wife Jan started a sign business that specialized in hand-carved wood signs. In 1988 they moved to Door County and started their company Erinnwood. They made a few signs but the business quickly shifted to things related to the 18th century and Rob making furniture full time.
Over the years Rob has made a lot of furniture for collections all over the world. His specialty has been the Shaker, Queen Anne and Chippendale styles. He has been asked to speak at museums about his knowledge of the Queen Anne style in particular. Of late, he has taught a varied array of woodworking subjects at The Clearing, in Door County.
As a furniture maker he needed to be proficient at lathe work for turning spindles, columns and finials required in period furniture. Turning was always his favorite part of the furniture making process. Gradually Rob became more and more interested in turning vessels, mainly because of the total freedom involved in each pieces creation. In turning spindles and columns and the like, all the work is exact. Each length, cove and bead must be precise, especially if you are duplicating a number of pieces. On the other hand, when turning vessels, you never know exactly what you‘re going to get. You can have the best plan in the world, a design you are totally happy with, and the wood or chisel will change it somehow. Not your idea at all. But when it happens a line might be shown that you hadn’t thought of during the design process. Sometimes it’s not a good thing and you keep going with your original idea. Other times it is something great and you think, “WOW! That looks much better!” and your design changes. Other times a pattern in the wood grain may show itself, and this will change the design because you don’t want to loose that particular effect the grain is having on the piece. Simply stated this is what he calls the freedom of vessel turning. You never really know what you’re going to get. “I don’t care who the turner is; nobody has ever gotten exactly what he or she originally set out to turn.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but an honest one nonetheless. If you’re going to turn vessels, you need to be flexible. The wood decides what it wants to be. The turner is merely the instrument. That’s the nature of wood. Some of the wood Rob uses is extremely expensive. Those wild grain patterns are what give the piece its character and allow for those wonderful design changes and expressions of freedom that make each piece unique. And then we get into color. Coloring and painting the wood opens a whole new world of possibilities. An otherwise plain piece of wood now has the opportunity to become extraordinary.
As Rob became more proficient at turning large platters he began embellishing them in different ways, mostly with pyrography. This in turn evolved into Rob using the wood as other artists use canvas. One thing that intrigues Rob is the culture of the Native Americans. As a result, he has started this new direction by burning in the portraits of Native American chiefs among other subjects.
Rob’s interests are constantly changing which dictates what he pursues in art.
- Turning 100%
- Pyrography 100%
- Woodworking 100%
- Furniture 100%