Fletcher Cox | Golden Section Plate 1
Fletcher Cox

born 1948
Resides in Tougaloo, Mississippi

Biography              Statement              Ask the Artist
Fletcher Cox describes himself as a self-employed designer and craftsman in wood. He's also an adjunct assistant professor at the Mississipi State University School of Architecture. His work is in the permanent collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Arkansas Art Center and the Fine Arts Museum of the South in Mobile. Among his public commissions-- architectural additions to the Mississippi Governor's mansion.

He has made a specialty of constructing sanctuary furniture for churches in Mississippi and Alabama.


Statement

In "Home Economics" essayist Wendell Berry takes his friend Wes Jackson to task over the use of the word "random" to describe the arrangement of raindrops as they fall from the sky. He proposes the use of the term "mysterious" instead. Just because the order isn't apparent doesn't mean it's not there: it is we who have not yet found it. Our attitude toward the mysterious is quite different from that toward the random.

There is a temptation in post-classical artifice to approximate the mysterious orders that abound in First Nature. Plastic counter tops that imitate stone's crystalline structure are one obvious example: compositional maneuvers in hand work are another. Such efforts are doomed, at best, to sentimentality, if not narcissism. The freedom we find in First Nature's mysteries is to be found in Second Nature in the workings of pattern.

Such a pattern is the shape of the traditional plate: shallow bowl surrounded by sloping (more or less) platform: an opened-out jar with rim. Like a table, it makes an interiority above itself. This shape was traditionally decorated on the rim with representations: totems of domesticity and power. The rim of this plate is the emblem of the order/random encounter: it is not surface, not applied, but made up in the plate. The field of the bowl is a multiple pattern based on the golden section proportion which is itself a traditional pattern.

Since the invention of joinery, woodworking in general has gone from being a subtractive medium to additive. The exceptions to this trend are monolithic sculpture and turning. In this plate both additive and subtractive processes are at work, aiming at balance.


Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

Ruminations on the human condition.

Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?

Mostly alone.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

I teach architecture.

What's the most exciting part of creating your works?

"Exciting" is an interesting word to choose for such a meditative practice. "Exciting" in the sense of perilous: design. "Exciting" in the sense of strenuous: glue-up.

What's the most difficult part of creating your works?

Design.

What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?

Not only has the technology changed, but wood itself has changed. I don't use CNC yet, but I probably will. On any given day I use the oldest technology (knife, chisel) ancient (handsaw) and latest (biscuit jointer).

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

1. Keep your day job.
2. Get a bandsaw.
3. Go to school.
4. Do not settle for less in a table saw than rock steady.
5. There is no substitute for daylight.

Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?

Random orbital sander.

What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?

The work.

Fletcher Cox added the following whimsical questions he wished he'd been asked, but wasn't:

What is still confusing about your craft? Why is hardware so lame? What is the truth about glue?

Let us know if you come up with any good answers to these--


Anthony Corradetti Frank E. Cummings III