At the start of the video documentary below about Sam Maloof, a call comes in from a client: ‘I’m just wondering on the status of that coffee table that Sam’s been working on for 18 months. I’m 70 years old and I’d like it before I die’. A little further on Sam himself says now callers are more likely to say ‘you’re 88, and I’d like a piece of furniture before you die’. He liked it better the other way round.
Sam Maloof is a woodworking legend, he was on the ground when the US studio furniture movement was in its embryonic stage. He passed away in 2009 but his influence is everywhere, not just in his surviving work but in his legacy to other woodworkers whose work evidences his inspiration.
This video is about the life and work of Sam Maloof and shows him in the workshop, creating one of his signature chairs.
Below is reprinted a short biography of Sam Maloof that appeared in AWR#69 in conjunction with a story about a visit to the Maloof estate.
For more information visit www.malooffoundation.org
Sam Maloof (1916–2009) was one of the finest woodworkers of our time. For more than half a century, until his death in 2009, he designed and crafted furniture and was a leader of the California modern arts movement.
His unique furniture is in some of the most important private collections in the USA and in the permanent collections of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Art, the American Craft Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the White House and many other public museums. Sam Maloof exhibited in countless exhibitions and received many awards.
In 1985 he was named a MacArthur Fellow and received honorary doctorates from the Rhode Island School of Design, Aurora University in Illinois and the California State University at San Bernardino. In 2001 Maloof’s work was also the subject of a prestigious retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC.
In 1948 Sam married Alfreda Ward (1912–1998). The young couple could not afford furniture so Sam made it from used plywood concrete forms. It was Sam’s remarkable sense of line and style that led to him making furniture. Alfreda, also an artist, inspired Sam in his work and managed the Maloof woodworking business until her death in 1998. In 2001 Sam married Beverly Wingate Maloof, one of Sam Maloof’s earliest clients and a craft admirer and collector.
Central to Sam’s work and life is his hand-built residence and adjoining workshop. In 1990, the Maloof residence and workshop were deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. With a freeway extension set to cut through the Maloof site, the original buildings were moved piece by piece to a nearby site in Alta Loma, near the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.
The original location was a working lemon grove and the new six-acre site was chosen partly for the existing lemon trees that help recreate the original environment and also complement the new landscaping.
Sam designed a new house that was constructed below the original residence. The workshops were moved to the new site, as were many of the trees from the former Maloof property. The landscaping consists of a dry climate garden designed by Beverly Maloof, with water-wise Californian native plants and compatible plants from other Mediterranean climate zones around the world. Benches, sculpture, and picnic areas offer spaces for visitors’ quiet reflection and relaxation.
Today the original residence is open as a museum, filled with the Maloof furniture and art collection.