Tripp Carpenter runs Espenet Furniture since 2006. He has worked with wood since he was six years old in his father's shop. His father, Art Carpenter, passed on his self-taught knowledge to his son. In addition to dreaming up his own functional and artistic woodworking pieces, Tripp continues to produce editions of his father’s famous designs.
Woodworking and water are some of the main themes in my life. I create sleek wooden furniture inspired by waves and other natural forms. Simply, I love curves.Curves with no flat spots. Like a beautiful bowl. Like the beautiful arc of a rainbow or the magnificent form of a crescent moon or a breaking wave. I put curves into everything I make in one form or another.
I grew up in my father’s shop. I spent thirty years turning wood in the back of the shop watching apprentices come and go and observing all the different ideas and designs being made and talked about.
My father showed more than 130 apprentices a lifestyle out of the main stream surrounded by nature.
My father was one of the pioneers of California Design furniture, which is characterized by organic forms and a cavalier flouting of convention. He helped shape the field with his sensuous, simple designs and unconventional construction techniques. His work is now displayed in the Smithsonian and other collections worldwide.
It was not until I was 50, two years before my father passed away in 2006, that I actually considered trying to work as furniture maker. I was teaching high school art in San Francisco when my father called me one day to see if I could finish a drop leaf table for a client. I did finish it and saw that there were more orders to fill.
It has now been almost 20 years since I have taken on this mode of living. I always thought the work would end. I have gone a few weeks without work but for the most part it has been a success. My mantra has always been "believe in yourself" and see what happens.
I have had the benefit of knowing intimately how to make most all of my father's designs. Those designs are many. He was extremely experimental, continuously trying new things. Every time I think I come up with something new, I realize he already did it. It is a little disconcerting but at the same time quite extraordinary. As I continue do be in the trade and getting older, I realize more and more how prolific my father was. So I never try to compare myself to him or anyone else. To do so is to destroy oneself or the other.
People ask me all the time, Are you making your father’s designs or are you doing your own stuff ? I find the question annoying. It is like they are implying you're not really a true artist if your not doing your own stuff. Is any artist or caft person really doing their own stuff? We are all copying someone's work and transforming it to our own style. My father copied designs by many people and crafted them in his own style. My father’s wishbone chair which he is so famous for is a very similar design of Wharton Escheric’s wishbone chair. Of course I do my father’s designs. I am keeping the ESPENET tradition alive by being here and producing those designs in my own style.
I think of designs like recipes. Every recipe has its ingredients but every recipe comes out different in the end. The main ingredient that I use is wood. I am the heat and the seasoning which make the outcome always different.
I feel that what I am doing now is really a continuation of the time I spent working for my father. The only difference now is that I cannot ask him questions.
I don’t really think of myself as an artist or a craftsman. I’m just making a living from what I am good at, from what I know. It helps that I have an aesthetic. I know what good forms looks like. I can see if a curve has a flat spot. I can see if the proportions are right on. I can see if the design will work ergonomically. It is also fantastic to make beautiful objects which are going to outlast me by hundreds of years.
The legacy of my father’s life style is a an inspiration for creative people. I want to keep that legacy alive. I want to be a supportive of people to have the freedom to experiment and to choose a life style that makes them content.