DESIGN DICTIONARY: Wendell Castle

Wendell Castle-John Eason-Kips Bay Showhouse

Wendell Castle-John Eason-Kips Bay Showhouse

So who is Wendell Castle and why should you know him?

Wendell Castle, photographed by Ben Hoffman

Wendell Castle, photographed by Ben Hoffman

"To me an organic form has the most exciting possibilities. An organic form is not so clearly understood in one glance"~ Wendell Castle.

Wendell Castle  often is said to be the founder of  the American Studio Furniture movement.  He himself doesn't take the title and claims that his work in furniture began with a 1958 road trip to rural Pennsylvania where he dropped in unannounced on another legendary furniture designer Wharton Esherick.  Castle was so inspired  by the handcrafted furniture created by Esherick, that he returned to his home in Kansas and started to make furniture himself.  Today Wendell Castle's furniture is found in the collections of museums throughout the world.

Castle's first designs recalled the Scandinavian furniture that where then quite popular.  He soon progressed to more sculptural forms (even today, he still considers himself primarily a sculptor), first working in wood where he perfected a technique known as stacked lamination.   Later he moved on to work in fiberglass and plastic with his molar suite of furniture being one of his most iconic forms in those mediums.

Furniture by Wendell Castle

Furniture by Wendell Castle

The Molar chair by Wendell Castle used in a room in Miami designed by Doug Meyer Interior

The Molar chair by Wendell Castle used in a room in Miami designed by Doug Meyer Interior

Castle's work is generally known for its organic shape and his earliest pieces in wood command the highest prices among collectors.  He often starts with a sketch, then moves on to a computer rendition, model and then the final piece.

Wendell Castle

Wendell Castle

His later work is a showhouse favorite. His Triad chair, used by designer John Eason in the Grand Staircase for the 2014 Kips Bay Showhouse (seen in the first photo) was designed in 2006 and provides the perfect foil for the baroque console next to it.

In the 2013 Kips Bay Showhouse, designer Kristin McGinnis  used his Calamari Bench, fiberglass and gold leaf, designed in 2011 in her dramatic dining room.

Wendell Castle Calamari Bench in a dining room designed by Kristen McGinnis for the 2013 Kips Bay Showhouse

Wendell Castle Calamari Bench in a dining room designed by Kristen McGinnis for the 2013 Kips Bay Showhouse

Wendell Castle was born in Kansas in 1932 and received a BFA from the University of Kansas in Industrial Design and an MFA in sculpture in 1961.  He then moved to Rochester, NY, where he taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology and at the School for American Craftsman. He remains ann Artist in Residence there.  He opened the Wendell Castle School in Scottsville, NY in 1980.  Back in 2011, he said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that he continues to enjoy going to work every day adding that "I"m not even interested in vacations since I'm on vacation all the time."

Wendelll Castle, now well into his 80's, is still creating today.

Wendell’s Work at R & Company Booth at Design/Miami Basel June 19th, 2014

Wendell’s Work at R & Company Booth at Design/Miami Basel June 19th, 2014

First photo by Lynn Byrne.  Calamari Bench photograph by Stacey Bewkes of Quintessence Blog  First quote from Taragin, Cooke, Giovannini, Furniture by Wendell Castle, 1989  Recent work by Wendell Castle from his website.