It seems fitting that I met Austin Heitzman through a piece of wood. We both work at the same woodshop in SE Portland, where I use an ancient lathe in the back of the shop to turn prototypes for my lamps. One day, a chunk of walnut appeared on my shelf. Scrawled across it in black sharpie were the words, “Walnut pre-1900. Lamp Lady, you want?” Of course I did! And with that I entered Austin’s world where each slab of wood becomes a treasured piece to a thoughtful puzzle.
A Niche Award winner and a former painter, he uses wood as one would brushstrokes on a canvas, creating gorgeous, one-of-a-kind statements with his chairs, tables and vases.
We’ll be displaying a sliver of Austin’s beautiful collection at Tinselbox, please check out more of his work here: fivefifthsfurniture.com
Five Fifths Furniture Q + A
What do you like most about your work?
The thing I like most about my work is making it. From the historical
research for generating new and exciting design ideas to the
exploration of of every type of lumber that I can get my hands on, what
I like most is that I am able to focus 100% of my energy and time on
making work that I find visually and mentally stimulating.
What would people be surprise to learn about you?
People are often surprised that I am a self taught woodworker. I
received my formal education in painting, which is reflected in my
exploration of the myriads of colors and textures available in wood.
How do different wood species influence you?
My design is driven by the wood I use. The growth patterns, colors and
live edges of the lumber are the chief source of ornament in my work.
By utilizing multiple species I am able to add visual movement to
this natural ornament through the different colors and textures the
woods have to offer.
Is there a certain piece you are attached to?
Certain boards are special to me, either they are exceptionally
figured or come from a significant place or time. Often these are
boards I have milled myself. However, I am generally eager to use
these prized pieces of lumber in order to see all their magnificent
potential emerge once the finish is applied. At this point I am ready
to part with them and begin the next piece.
If you could speak to anyone past, present or future, who would it be?
The late James Krenov and George Nakashima have both been a
significant influence on my development as a woodworker. To have a
critique with either would be a cherished experience.