Tom Ocampo's Profile

About

I was born in Carmel and my workshop is located in Carmel Valley, California where my surroundings have always influenced and inspired my craft. Using unusual materials to create something from nothing such as; a root ball from a fruit tree or a slab of Bay Laurel to create one-of-a-kind pieces and limited series It feels like magic. I started furniture making in the 1980's when I found I could express the wonders and beauty of trees through the power and permanence of wood. This area is rich in history and fine examples of architectural work and furniture from all over the world. I’ve always had a wealth of information to choose from right here. Over the course of my career I’ve had the good fortune of working with people who were willing to pass on generations of knowledge.

I am inspired by the start of each day. When I’m designing the satisfaction comes when it gets out of my mind’s eye an…

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  • Male
  • Born on December 29
  • Joined December 16, 2011

Favorite materials

wood, recycled wood, reclaimed wood, rustic wood, drift wood, burls, old wood, redwood, construction materials, wood preservation, wood grain

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About

I was born in Carmel and my workshop is located in Carmel Valley, California where my surroundings have always influenced and inspired my craft. Using unusual materials to create something from nothing such as; a root ball from a fruit tree or a slab of Bay Laurel to create one-of-a-kind pieces and limited series It feels like magic. I started furniture making in the 1980's when I found I could express the wonders and beauty of trees through the power and permanence of wood. This area is rich in history and fine examples of architectural work and furniture from all over the world. I’ve always had a wealth of information to choose from right here. Over the course of my career I’ve had the good fortune of working with people who were willing to pass on generations of knowledge.

I am inspired by the start of each day. When I’m designing the satisfaction comes when it gets out of my mind’s eye and becomes reality. In life, to me, everything has reason and purpose. When I build something my designs usually have a strong reason for being. I like to use the proportions and scale to fill in the blanks. Only when it becomes real and tangible, something I can touch, can I let it go and dream of something else.

When I started in the trade I found myself accepting projects that other shops discarded because they viewed them as too complicated to be profitable. It forced me to learn the 'hard stuff' and enabled me to create a niche for myself in the high end market. The life cycle of the tree became an important part of my work. Whether it grew in a healthy or stressed environment or in competition with other trees in the forest determines the quality of grain in a piece of wood. The mineral makeup of the soil also helps determine the color of the wood itself. Sitting in my rocker I can count seven years of drought and tight, slow growth in the grain, then four years of rain where the bands widen as they flow down the sides. It gives me a connection with the earth and an appreciation for all the struggles that nature endures to survive. Over the last several years an appreciation for wood and it's preservation for future generations has become even more important to all of us. Each piece of wood has a story to tell as it's fashioned into a fine piece of furniture.

In 1994 I had the honor of being accepted into CALIFORNIA DESIGN '94, sponsored by the California Contemporary Craft Association. It was to present the outstanding works of 60 of California's most significant designers, architects and studio craft artists in an exhibition showcasing museum quality 21st century designs at the Contract Design Center in San Francisco. Through this exposure I was able to greatly expand my client base and meet fellow artists.

Over time, I was also influenced by my love of discovering who lived on this land before us which set my mind in motion. Landscape projects in our yard started me on the path of unearthing early stone tools that historians have told me are very old. I started thinking about the Indians making stone tools as extensions of their hands to make their tasks easier. I could tell these tools were made by masters. My inquisitive nature pushed me to find meaning and understanding surrounding the thought process of using the materials around me like a native Indian finding a stone to make a scraper. I began to focus on finding the beauty in the simplest and most over looked woods. Drift wood, burls, recycling old redwood fences, even construction grade material started to catch my attention. Good design can make the simplest of materials look like works of art. I finally picked up a piece of construction grade fir that had sat in a corner for nearly three years. Something kept me from throwing it out all this time. I saw something in it but wasn't clear about what it was. In 2006 it became real as my 'Spotted Fawn' stool.

A turning point in my career came in November 2004 when I was introduced to Sam Maloof through a client of mine. I was feeling frustrated that designing and selling my own work wasn't happening fast enough, after all, I was half way through my life already. Along came Sam, a man who had aged so gracefully at the age of 89 and still going strong. He told me he didn't even start designing and building furniture until he was at the age of fifty. So I felt, it wasn't too late for me, I could do this! I felt so fortunate to have met Sam. The times we spent together he shared his heart and knowledge freely and was a great role model for so many of us in the modern day Arts & Crafts Movement.

Tom Ocampo

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