It is an honor to present my guest writer, the world known artist Po Shun Leong and his interesting story how Don S. Shoemaker inspired him to start his career in woods craftsmanship over 30 years ago.
Po Shun Leong, former architect, sculptor and furniture maker, known since the late 1980´s for his highly intricate and inspiring one-of-a-kind wood boxes. The “Landscape” box, a constantly evolving series since 1983 – more drama than box – is architectural in character and built up of many different woods in their natural colors, inspired from ancient or legendary civilizations. The flamboyant sense of shape, surprise and presentation combined with his initial struggles in Mexico has created a following for his art worldwide. He keeps his studio in the garden of his residence in California and he continues to make elaborate wood objects and a line of sculpturally-inspired furniture pieces.
Po Shun Leong´s remembrances on his wonderful friendship with Don S. Shoemaker since the 60’s while he lived in Mexico are described here:
“Don S. Shoemaker was very influential in the way my career turned out. His work inspired me to break free to become an independent wood artist in California thirty years ago. It was a pleasure to see Don’s creations again on your web site”.
In 1967 when I was working with C.A.P.F.C.E. the Mexican Federal school construction program in Morelia, Michoacan, I rented a small apartment at the Villa Montaña, in Santa Maria de Guido. As an architect, I designed 27 primary schools in places like Apazingan, Caolcoman, Aquila, Patzcuaro etc. and traveled on horseback over the remote mountains of the Pacific coast before there were any roads.
Since I was a near neighbor to Don S. Shoemaker’s SEÑAL company at the top of the hill, I was able to make friends with him and his wife Barbara and also get to know the factory and their designs. Don was the first person who I had ever met whose furniture set off my mind into the possibilities of what to do and where to go in the future. It had to be furniture. He had a large showroom with many samples. I could only afford a couple of objects, a rectangular tray of inlayed wood which I still treasure here in California. The other was a donkey stool for friends who had a little boy.
Don’s work was an inspiration for me especially in the design of functional objects, many of which were free from the constraints of traditional styles and methods of construction. I especially appreciated the way you could tell that the hands of makers were expressed in the shapes and surfaces and the efficient use of machines that enabled the products to be available at reasonable prices. We talked mainly about making furniture, machines and wood; just practical things.
When I began to make furniture independently in Mexico City in the early 1970’s, I sought a more distilled and purer form, some of which were handmade whilst others were mass produced. I made wood dining chairs, sling chairs and even plastic ones all in a contemporary style and received awards from the government and in the Knoll International Furniture Competition.
Here are some of Po Shun Leong´s wood furniture pieces made in Mexico during the 1970´s:
The Tulum leather set from 1974
to be continued….in Part #2
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