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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Turning Wood into Art: Joel Harte

Joel Harte's talent is in the details. Examples of his carving and marquetry are shown in the four-poster bed. (Photo by Hank Daniel)
Joel Harte's talent is in the details. Examples of his carving and marquetry are shown in the four-poster bed. (Photo by Hank Daniel)
Additional photos below »

Carving His Niche in Furniture


Joel Harte grew up in New York and started making furniture while teaching elementary school in 1975. "Furniture-making became my passion and then my career," he says.

In 1976 he moved to West Jefferson, North Carolina and apprenticed to an 80-year-old furniture maker who introduced him to more traditional styles of furniture. After about a year, Harte went out on his own and has been making beautiful furniture ever since.

Harte and his wife Nancy moved to Abingdon, Va. in 1982 after visiting the Virginia Highlands Festival and falling in love with the historic town.

The majority of Harte's work has been traditional American, Queen Anne, and Shaker, though in recent years he has done some modern and Country French designs.

"Nancy and I developed an interest in French furniture and, with her design help, we spent many years making our versions of French furniture and later brought it into other people's kitchens and libraries," he explains.

Harte's talent is in the details. He is experienced with carving and marquetry (wood pictures with veneer) and inlays. Kitchen work is standard fare along with furniture, as well as repairs and finishing. He has crafted complete kitchens, huge built-in media centers, high-boy dressers, four-poster beds, armoires, intricately-carved bedposts, and chairs.

"I always enjoy new things so I don't specialize. I work with solid wood, veneers, and enjoy carving," he says. "I love working with wood. I tried other crafts, and even though I appreciate the workmanship required in any art or craft, they didn't move me the way wood does. I like the textures, the grain, the colors and the shapes you can make. I also like the precision it requires, the mathematical aspects of the whole process."

Like Sproll's work, Harte's furniture is not in the public eye. "I market myself wherever it takes me. We do custom work, mostly here, but also up and down the East Coast. We delivered a table to Florida last November. When economic times are good, we do more cabinet work. Since the recession hit, I have done more furniture."

Is It Art or Craftsmanship?

Topics: Art, Crafts

Carving on this cabinet door further illustrates Harte's attention to detail.

A mantel with additional intricate detail.