I grew up watching my father build furniture in the cramped basement of our Philadelphia rowhouse, and developed an early appreciation of hand-craftsmanship. While my female peers were sewing and cooking, I broke with tradition and became the first female student at the William Levering School to enroll in woodshop (it was 1976), winning honors for outstanding achievement. I studied at the Pennsylvania State University, graduating with a B.S. in Nursing. In the succeeding years I've been a writer, photographer, graphic designer, R.N., data manager, and web developer. My background is somewhat eclectic. Like me, like my art.
Wood is my medium. Actually, I'm a mixed media artist with industrial and steampunk tendencies - but wood is special to me. I love burls, worm holes, insect damage, fungus, rough bark. Wood is a living, breathing thing. I love the feel of it, the smell of it, the way it curls off my planer and flutters to the floor in little drifts. Using hand tools lets me feel how it responds to my touch. I let the wood speak to me and tell me what it wants.
While the scope of my work ranges from furniture to fine art, there is an industrial theme that unifies it. Vintage hardware, machine bolts, and brass fittings are my raw materials. I look at architecture for inspiration. I shop auctions, antique stores and flea markets, I buy mechanical things, I take them apart. It all comes together in a hidden hollow in rural Maryland.
Since moving from the Philadelphia region in early 2013, I've established a 1000+ sq.ft. workshop and studio, and am pursuing my craft full-time. I'm turning my attention to larger and more ambitious projects in the expanded space, while continuing to hone my woodworking skills. My technique is moving toward the hand-cut and hand-shaped, favoring chisels and gouges over power tools. I plan to continue in this direction and see where the wood leads me.
© Mary Masterilli