Arthur Espenet Carpenter

(1920 - 2006)

About The Artist

The Bay Area craftsman Arthur Espenet Carpenter was one of the most celebrated figures in the post-war American Studio Furniture movement. A self-taught woodworker, Carpenter almost singlehandedly defined a new design aesthetic known as the “California roundover”—a style characterized by pleasingly flowing lines and gently-contoured edges that feel almost supple to the touch.

Carpenter earned an economics degree from Dartmouth College, but after serving in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II, Carpenter rejected the world of business, pledging instead to find work he enjoyed. Attending the “Good Design” show at the Museum of Modern Art, Carpenter would admire the hand-turned, wooden bowls he saw there by James Prestini, and made up his mind to become a craftsman himself. He moved to San Francisco and opened a woodworking shop in the Mission district. Within a few years, Carpenter had moved to the coastal town of Bolinas, where he built furniture on commission.

His national reputation was sealed in 1972 when, somewhat to Carpenter’s own surprise, his designs were shown by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in the exhibition “Woodenworks” alongside designs by George Nakashima, Wharton Esherick, Sam Maloof, and Wendell Castle.

Renwick Gallery. Woodenworks; Furniture Objects by Five Contemporary Craftsmen: George Nakashima, Sam Maloof, Wharton Esherick, Arthur Espenet Carpenter, Wendell Castle. St. Paul: Minnesota Museum of Art, 1972. Print. Iovine, Julie V., and Todd Merrill. Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam. New York: Rizzoli, 2008. Print. Mastelli, Rick. “Art Carpenter: The Independent Spirit of the Baulines Craftsman’s Guild.” Fine Woodworking. Nov.-Dec. 1982: 62-68. Print.