Steve Heller and his Fabulous Furniture

Every fall my beloved and I travel to upstate New York
to take in the Woodstock Film Festival.

One year we met writer Martha Frankel.

This led to us meeting her husband.

Meet Steve Heller, one of the sweetest, funniest geniuses you’ll ever come across.

Steve and Martha live in the Woodstock area, and they own a store

on Route 28 called Fabulous Furniture.
Fabulous is putting it mildly.

Steve collects wood, and turns it into museum quality pieces of art/furniture.

As he tells it:

“All the work you see here is made right at our workshop and showroom in Boiceville, NY. We do our own logging, looking for trees too big and misshapen to be feasible for other loggers. Many of the trees we use are rotten or dead, and both of these “defects” produce incredible grain patterns. We bring the trees back to the shop and decide if they should be cut on the conventional sawmill, which can cut only 19″ wide, or the chainsaw mill, which requires more man power but can cut a board up to 50″ inches wide. Some of our tables are made from one piece of wood, 30″ to 50″ wide, which is unheard of anywhere else.
We use only quality hardwoods: black walnut, butternut, black cherry, and a rare, diseased form of hard maple called spalted maple. Spalted maple resembles a pen-and-ink drawing or a finely grained piece of marble.
After the trees have been sawn into boards, they are kiln dried. Then we store the wood in airtight containers so the moisture content stays stable.

We put in many hours of handwork and use many types of sanders and machines to bring out the grain an inherent beauty of the wood. We then put several coats of a state-of-the-art finish that can easily withstand alcohol, water, and heavy usage. It requires no care beyond simple dusting. Nothing is stained or dyed: all the variations occur naturally in the wood.

Our inlays of butterflies, lizards, and other animals are done by first cutting the animal from a different piece of wood, tracing the pattern on the tabletop, and then carving for an exact fit. It is a slow and tedious process that took many years to perfect.”

He also collects…everything else.
Well. Not everything–just stuff that’s meaningful to him: car parts, wrenches, shoes (his own),
Just about anything metal, all of it sorted and classified into a laid-back system that makes perfect sense. He’s supported by his assistant Mike Karpf.

The personality and heart you discover during a tour of his studio
puts those chopper guys to shame.

He turns this stuff into things like this:

He drives things like this in Soap Box Derby races:
His sculptures live on the grounds of his studio and shop.
It’s so enchanting to drive by that two filmmakers from NYC did a short film
about Steve last year.
It captured his passion, creative genius, humor, and gentle nature.
Recently, he entered his fantastic “Marquis de Soto” in the prestigious NY Times Collectible
Car of the Year contest.

He won!

Here’s the slideshow the times put together about Steve.
Treat yourself to a viewing, and enjoy his great voice describing what he does.

He’s an unforgettable person who’s learned the secret to finding something good
in every day—if we could each have a little more Steve Heller in our hearts,
it’d be so nice.
If you want more, Steve and Martha’s house was featured on HGTV,
in an episode of Offbeat America.
Sure, i’ll mention your book, Martha.
Stevie’s in that too.

Your comment is welcome.

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