lantern

One of Rod Cameron's handcrafted lanterns, featuring tiles designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

 

Sturdy dishware that doesn’t easily shatter? It should sound appealing to many, especially as the holiday season draws nearer. While art beautifies and enriches our lives, Stillwater woodworker Rod Cameron hopes that his own will also have practical use in the homes of his customers- of which he hopes there will be many at the Marine Art Fair.

“I call my work functional art, because it’s artistic, but it’s also functional. I like people to use my items in their homes,” Cameron said. 

His pieces include trays, trivets, plaques and even lanterns, to name a few, constructed of various types of wood and tile. He took woodworking classes in high school, but did not take up the trade again until a couple of years before he retired from his accounting career. At his wife’s suggestion, he made a tray to set on the ottoman, and decided to start selling his work at craft fairs after he was pleased with how the final product turned out.

Walnut and cherry are among Cameron’s favorite types of wood to work with, as well as spalted sycamore (spalted meaning that the tree was damaged by fungi or insects while it was alive, giving the wood unique colorations). Many of the tiles that Cameron utilizes in his work come from garage sales. Earlier this year, he sold trays adorned with hand-painted Mexican tile at a Southwestern art gallery in Tucson, Arizona. On the way back from Tucson, however, Cameron came across another unique type of tile when he stopped at an antique shop. The store’s proprietor possessed three large boxes full of vintage tiles, designed by celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Luxfer Prism Company, which she had acquired from a friend who’d salvaged them from an old abandoned house. 

In the days before widespread electrification, these tiles were designed for use in storefronts. Their ridges would refract the light so that even the back walls of a shop would be illuminated. Based on this, Cameron fashioned a set of lanterns in which the tiles would be featured.

Other pieces of Cameron’s art incorporate a Scrabble theme, or relatable quotes about wine and dogs. 

“[Sometimes] customers will come up and look at one of my trays and say ‘oh, I can make that. I don’t need to buy one of yours, I’ll just go home and make it,’” Cameron said. “It’s more complicated than it looks, so I wish them luck.”

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