Furniture art featured on Main Street
Bob Zierk spent 26 years of his life selling mass-produced, factory-made furniture to fill bed and living rooms.
In his native Chicago, he owned five Thomasville Furniture stores before he sold them in 2006. Then he worked for another company managing 19 stores, but he wasn’t happy.
"I didn’t like the corporate lifestyle with Blackberries and such. It’s not what I wanted to do," he said. "So my wife and I decided that when the kids were off to college we would sell the house and move to Park City."
But Zierk wasn’t running away, he was jumping into a passion: hand-made, finely crafted furniture. He opened the Robert Kelly Gallery on 408 Main Street in early July (his two children are Robert and Kelly).
"I love the furniture business, I wasn’t going to start selling insurance or something," he joked.
Looking around at what fine artisans were making in the region, he got excited about the idea of functional art-fine art pieces (carvings, sculptures, ceramics) that served as furniture (beds, tables, mirrors, cabinets, etc.)
Selling functional art puts a lot of responsibility on the seller, said featured artist Cappy White, because people are used to buying a bed made in China for the cheapest possible price. Art as furniture is about making pieces that serve as the focal point of a room. It’s about pieces that become heirlooms and collector items, explained featured artist Chris Chapman.
Zierk met White and Chapman through simple networking. Most furniture artisans travel around selling their work at shows. With rising fuel prices, the travel is becoming less appealing. Once Zierk convinced a few artists he was committed to promoting quality work, they got excited about being featured in a gallery and put him in touch with friends.
Zierk brags that his featured artists are the best in the business, but he’s still working out the theme of his store. His artists are from the West, and are inspired by their environment, so many of the pieces have a Western motif. His main goal is to please the residents and visitors to Park City, and may adjust to fit their desires.
One example of that commitment is his collection of Simon Pearce glassware and flatware out of Vermont. The glassware is hand-created crystal in less traditional designs. Zierk was familiar with them in Chicago and got permission to sell them in Park City. He has the only stock in a five-state region.
Most of the items in the store are about celebrating the nature, culture and heritage of the West.
Dave LaMure Jr., from Idaho, creates themed lamps, vessels, statues and more with ceramics, bronze and glass. His pieces tell stories and several are inspired by events in his life or things he’s seen like moments in the wilderness. The Robert Kelly is the only gallery he’s featured in.
What stands out about LaMure’s lamps is the way he plays off traditional use of antlers and horns by setting them into the lamp. It looks like the bone was simply pressed into the ceramic, and indeed, he got the idea once when an antler accidentally fell into a piece. The actual process is painstaking so that the shape isn’t warped by the pressing. He must also account for the shrinkage that occurs in the kiln. Last, he paints the scene on the lamp that inspired the story.
Cappy White, from Colorado, creates hand-made wood furniture inlaid with Dakota sandstone that he finds in the river near his home. The idea came to him after examining the way the Anasazi in the Four Corners region stacked stone that is still stable today.
His items include beds, tables, cabinets and anything requested. After creating the piece with wood, he hand-stacks the rock in place fitting each small piece to its surrounding without any glue. The result is a mixed-medium piece of functional art.
Chapman is inspired by history. She carves chests, mirrors and cabinets and accents the pieces with distressed and hand-colored saddle leather.
"Leather lends itself to all different time periods and styles. I try to do a lot of interiors these days that are an eclectic blend of European and Western themes rather than just old western log furniture," said. "I try to do things that have some definite historical reference to them that blend really well with western interior."
One example, featured prominently in the gallery, is a giant armor cabinet inspired by ones she’d seen in Scottish castles from the 17th century that lined hallways storing battle implements.
All of the artists are excited about Zierk’s idea of promoting functional art.
"Bob has got a pretty unique concept with his gallery," she said.
The trend to outsource the production of disposable furniture needs combating, LaMure said. Zierk’s idea is good not only for the art form, but the preservation of Western and American culture.
The gallery is open for business but changes are still being made. It is currently about two-thirds full and when it is complete, a grand opening will be held in the fall, Zierk said.
The Robery Kelly Gallery
408 Main Street
Hours vary until grand opening in fall, usually closed Mondays.
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