Gary Moore says he “never gets stuck for ideas.” In part, that’s because the woodworker and designer currently living in St. Paul, Minnesota, takes photos or notes of all sorts of things that might inspire a later design.
“Whenever I see something interesting, if I like it I’ll take a photograph. Then I might come back to it a few months later,” sometimes subconsciously, Gary said. His interesting elements might be the appearance of wood as it drops during cutting in the shop, or how items appear as he’s rearranging them on his workbench. Or, in one case, “I was driving and the car in front of me had an interesting shape of the red brake lights. I saw it and thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ and it turned into a table” – or at least the starting point for his Ailish coffee table.
“It’s a jumping-off point for a shape or a form,” Gary said. It also plays into his long-term interest in photography. “When you’re learning how to photograph, it’s a different way of looking at stuff. You become more aware, and it fed into my work as a designer,” Gary said.
He did spend eight months in design school in England, while also learning woodworking by hiring himself out to a couple of furniture makers’ shops. “I’d been doing something else for a long time that I didn’t really like anymore – I was a printer for about 20 years – then I tried to find a position with a furniture maker back in England. I said I’d work for free, for a little while, or really cheaply.”
The appeal of woodworking, Gary said, came in part because “I’ve always liked to make stuff, was always kind of curious,” plus, “I wanted to design stuff I couldn’t find.”
One of his first assignments at design school was to create a storage unit of some kind from plywood of a certain size. Gary designed a “U2Me Magazine Rack,” the ends of which look like two people supporting the items in between. “I like that kind of criteria,” Gary said.
Some of the other pieces he enjoys are the “Stretch a Sketch” storage unit he created for his son, and his line of “OGEL Toy Boxes.”
His work, Gary said, in a way has two distinct sides to it: the sort of whimsical pieces that appeal to children and adults alike, and then more “adult-oriented” furniture, as he put it. “I’m really obsessed with angles and repetition and things like that,” Gary said.
For instance, one series of pieces “started with a dining table, really, that had an extreme angle with the leg. I wanted to make something that looked like it shouldn’t work,” Gary said.
That then fed into a family of chairs, including items like a lounge chair and a dining chair, that Gary says are very indicative of the type of work he does.
Eventually, in fact, he’d like to specialize in chairs – “but I need to acquire a lot of skills before I start making chairs [exclusively],” Gary said. In fact, with his Gibson dining chair, he originally started the project a few years ago, then “it got put on the back burner because I didn’t really have the know-how. Then we moved to the States, I got a workshop … it was about five years from the sketching to the state when I thought it was done. In the beginning, I didn’t know how I would do it, but by the time I came back to it, I just looked at it and found I knew what to do.”
With inspiration like that, the memory jogs from his photos and notes, and the design inspiration Gary finds nearly everywhere, Gary said of his projects, “You just never know where it’s going.”