Michael Elkan

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Reading the Wood

August 16, 1942 - July 27, 2014
We love you always, Michael!

Michael Elkan

The balance

subtle explorations of the possibilities to unite material, imagination and hand are as viable and current today as they were 45 years ago. We have made over 1000 pieces since 1979. In times of turmoil, this artist's work can bring us back to nature and evoke emotion, perhaps a smile.

The place -- Oregon

"mist so fine, you must look twice to see it -- you don't even feel it"
except you get awfully wet walking through a forest. The plants looking up, drinking the mist -- a bright spot in the sky, sun glistening a little bit, through cloud covers -- and the green, infinite shades. A spot in the mountain's forest, it feels as if the trees and plants want to grow so fast as if to cover us up -- fold us into an almost warm, moist, womb.

The mantra

"eliminate preconceived notions"
Michael Elkan with the makings of some beautiful wooden furniture -- click for more furniture
Opposites Attraction Table by Michael Elkan and David Kotter -- click for more furniture
The Michael Elkan Rocker with Steam Bent Back and Slats -- click for more on early work
Sculptural Boxes by Michael Elkan -- click for more boxes
Reading the Wood: Techniques & Projects from a Master Woodworker, a book by Michael Elkan

The material

The stone that the builder refused will always be the head corner stone. The things people refuse are the things they should choose.
-- Bob Marley

Each tree and each part of the tree has an ultimate purpose.
-- George Nakashima

We work this material as an instrument to fashion useful objects, possibly if so willed a thing of beauty -- in any case a joining of the rhythms of nature to fulfill its destiny and ours.
-- George Nakashima

The way

Like my ancestors, I use my eyes and my hands. The eyes to observe nature for form, for material, for function. It is from nature that my creativity derives. The connection with the object and natural phenomenon is constant, rigorous, and faithful. The hands are for defining -- shaped, polished and chiseled -- to be re-seen in concrete form so as to be compared with memory that inspired.

The object

The great beauty of nature's jewels -- gold, silver, diamonds and pearls -- are hidden at the beginning in their rough state. So it is with wood we work the pearls of the forest. Our object is to take this wood with all its history, to learn its ways and make it into things of natural beauty -- functionally organic.


1942 Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1949-61 Worked in family children's clothing store
1962-67 Sold children's clothing, wholesale, on the road;
worked in a Jobbers warehouse
1968 Forum Sportswear, warehouse to designer
(credits: GQ, Esquire, NY Times, Menswear Daily)
1973 Moved to Oregon
1975, 1978-9 Faded Glory, Designer
(credits: GQ, Esquire, NY Times, Menswear Daily)
1980 Started Silver Splinter, selling furniture & sculptural boxes; later changed to Michael Elkan Studio
1980 George Nakashima buys work to sell in his studio
1993 Furniture for the Native American Museum at Warm Springs, Oregon
1995 Wrote the book Reading the Wood: Techniques & Projects from a Master Woodworker
2002 Closed Studio to explore other artistic endeavors,
such as architecture, cement & cement furniture, & garden design; still doing a limited amount of art furniture

For more information
... Frequently Asked Questions ...
... Furniture Explorations ...
... Gallery of Sculptural Boxes ...
... Clothing Design ...
... Collections & Awards ...
... Existing Work ...
... Furniture Photo Gallery ...
... Sculpture Photo Gallery ...
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