Venice Beach artist Charles Lushear handcrafts seriously playful pieces out of exotic wood
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Gim Gold with Synek Photography
Less than a decade ago, Charles Lushear was slugging away at a desk job for a guitar company in Los Angeles. Though employed as a buyer, not a builder, the blue-eyed New Jersey transplant found himself falling “in love with guitar design, and getting really into exotic wood.” In his spare time, he started fiddling around, building guitars, and became “obsessed with woodworking.”
“I like finding what my clients are passionate about, and turning that into a piece of furniture.”
But building guitars, and even a few ukuleles, had its creative limits for Lushear, who by that time had quit his job and branched out into serious furniture making. But he wasn’t just crafting your everyday functional pieces: “I like finding what my clients are passionate about, and turning that into a piece of furniture,” says Lushear. “Anything can be interesting.”
To that end, Lushear has created Batman coffee tables and a round birch table shaped in the head of English presenter Karl Pilkington. A wood framed mirror in the shape of an oversized pair of Wayfarer sunglasses. A replica of the Evil Queen’s magic mirror from the 1937 film version of Snow White. But perhaps his biggest hit is a series Lushear developed five years ago: oversized Nintendo controllers and gaming tables. The latter, sleekly Mid-Century in silhouette, are glasstopped and handcrafted from a swirl of walnut, mahogany and maple, one of Lushear’s favorite woods. The series was such a hit that Universal Studios in Orlando commissioned the artist to create a 15-foot Nintendo table for one of its conference rooms.
Among Lushear’s more substantial works are a table crafted from Claro walnut and inlaid with African mahogany, a sleek mahogany LP cabinet with dovetail drawers, and a hefty desk, its top a patchwork of white and red oak and its stem the dainty, laced legs of a vintage Singer sewing machine.
Though a playful aesthetic marks most of Lushear’s works, his craftsmanship level is dead serious. Each piece is created by Lushear himself, from start to finish, and produced completely by hand, without the aid of computers or CNC machines. When it’s suggested that perhaps he could hire a couple of guys to help sand or do tasks that would help him crank out more pieces, the artist shakes his head. The love of his art, it seems, is in the doing—from the very first thoughts he has about a project to presenting it to a client. “I’m excited about waking up in the morning and getting into the shop,” Lushear says, explaining that even the greatest difficulty of his work—creating wholly new pieces for which no existing instructions or plans exist—has its payoff.
“You have to figure out how to take a shape and create that out of wood. It’s really challenging. But when you pull it off it’s extremely rewarding.”
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* Please refer to the artist’s website for availability of the collection