Eben Blaney happens to not only be a friend, but also live right around the corner from us. The home and studio he built is nestled in the woods, surrounded by gardens and a beautiful studio he also built for his wife. His work is sophisticated, sleek, and eye catching. The beauty of it is that it is simple and understated, but so impressive that you just have to stop and stare. There's no denying his talent for design and woodworking.
He kindly welcomed me into his studio late last fall when a few leaves were still clinging to the trees. Seems like so long ago!
See his studio and work process below, and check out the Q&A!
What are your first memories of creating and designing?
My first memories of creating are of drawing boats. They were all around me and I drew a lot.
Did designing and building furniture start out of necessity?
Well, in a way. I wanted to be a musician or a writer but I never got good enough to make any money with those things. Woodworking had always been familiar to me and as I pursued what I thought I wanted to do, woodworking was what got me by and paid the bills. It was my fallback, and in that way answered the necessity of a paying job. Luckily it became more than that when I began discovering the creative potential in designing what i wanted to build.
How has your father's boat building experience influenced your life/work?
Big question. Well, at a fundamental level, just watching things being made by hand out of raw materials as a child, witnessing the process and commitment and eventual realization of a complex, functional form was influential, in ways that now seem pretty apparent. I now realize most people don't witness this sort of thing at such a close-up intimate level, it was all quite natural to me. But its also the lifestyle. I inherited the need/desire to work independently, to own every aspect of what I do, and to want to be challenged.
How do your designs come about? Do they reflect your personal aesthetics?
Well, some designs grow out of a clients request for a particular object, particular function, which is a different starting point than choosing to develop a new speculative piece. I have had successful designs come out of a custom request and I have gone where I probably wouldn't have gone on my own--designwise-- which can be a good thing. But left to my own devises, my designs generally come from a combination of thinking and drawing. A shape or gesture that strikes me or imagining a novel way of joining components can spark the beginnings of a whole new piece. Then there''s a lot of working things out with sketches models and mock-ups. A final design is such an intersection of so many things--there's planning which does reflect at least some of my aesthetic, but then there's the inevitable surprise or discovery which can alter my original intention. And like my more experimental pieces, as I begin I'm not sure how I will feel about the final piece, its just something I want to try, and with that I feel like I'm creating, or at least informing my aesthetic as I go.
What is the piece you are most proud of?
My current favorite piece is the Cormorant table.
How do you choose to market yourself and what have you found to be most helpful?
I've done print advertising, some social media, I've got an email list to announce shows and events. Doing craft & design shows in concert with a website and using email lists to stay in touch with potential clients has been most helpful. I like the face to face of shows and it makes sense that people who are potential buyers want to see my work in person.
What is your favorite part of a day?
Probably when I begin to hit stride with whatever I'm doing that day. After the morning fog clears and I have the wherewithal to not only focus on the tasks at hand, but to also let my mind wander and imagine new pieces or solutions to things I've been working on.
How has living in Maine influenced your work?
I'm not sure. Its where I grew up, so it runs deep into who I am but its hard to identify. There's the circumstances of boats and boatbuilding that influenced me and there's possibly a little "boatiness" in some of my pieces, but I'm not sure if my aesthetic would be that much different if I was somewhere else. I think there's a work ethic, and a standard of quality and craftsmanship that Maine is known for and I know its real because I've lived a few other places. I learned and embraced those standards as I understood them in my father's work, but it wasn't just him, its others that I worked with on building crews, in cabinet shops and timber framing here in Maine. There's a standard of quality that I've developed in this place that I now take for granted, yet its integral.
hat is your goal for the next 5 years?
Really just to create as much as I possibly can. To continue experimenting and see where it goes. To me that's the most exciting part and the most important goal to keep chasing. I have faith that if the work is good enough, people will find you and the rest will take care of itself.
What is the most important thing you would want people to know about your work?
I hope that its evident, at least in some of my pieces, that a fair amount of work and planning goes into the designs. Sometimes the simpler looking ones even moreso. I don't think its the most important thing, but I would like people--especially those who don't have their hands in designing and making things-- to understand the time and passion that I and I alone put into my work, and that its directed at trying to create something unique, elegant and useful-- unlike so much that is mass produced . I guess its what I would like people to know about many other artists and makers all over.
Find Eben here: