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Sugar House Journal

Utah Design Exhibit allows artists to display woodwork to the public

Nov 05, 2019 16h08 ● By Drew Crawford

Douglas Folsom stands in front of his handcrafted chest, his first piece of commissioned woodwork.

By Drew Crawford | [email protected]

In a world where chairs, tables and upholstery are mass produced, local artists are eager to display the difference that building upholstery by hand can make. 

The Utah Design Exhibit is an annual fine furniture and design showcase where local craftsmen can share the love they have for woodwork with the public. This year the event was held on Oct. 12 at Trolley Square.

Around the room chairs, tables, lamps and chests of various shapes and styles sit on mounts with their maker describing to inquirers the inspiration behind their ideas. 

The designers are here to explain what makes their ideas unique and sell their product.

Douglas Folsom II, 28, of Salt Lake created his first piece of commissioned furniture for the show. 

It is a chest made of alder wood with a deck covered in aromatic cedar. The lid of the chest has a stone inlay fashioned from lapis lazuli, pyrite and turquoise. 

Doug originally became interested in woodworking through classes that he took at Salt Lake Community College. 

“My professor got me into woodworking and furniture making. Right now, it’s a hobby and I want to expand it into a career,” Folsom explained. 

It was through taking the class that he realized the love that he had for paying careful attention when building something that he could call his own. 

“It’s like making a puzzle. You’ve got to figure out what you want and how you’re going to do it. I like making something that I know is around for a while. Making something that is functional and sturdy,” Folsom said. 

This year the show expanded to attract artisans from California, Colorado and Kentucky.

Craig Bayens traveled from Kentucky to participate in the show and appreciates the taste that Utahns have for his work. 

“In Kentucky people are not receptive. This will be a yearly thing for me,” Bayens said. 

For him the crowd attracted by the event brings the type of people that he wants to be put in front of.  

“There’s not a lot of furniture centric shows. There’s a certain draw to come to Utah. It’s design savvy folk. They are here to witness good design. They are willing to pay for craftmanship,” Bayes said and adds that he has had more people interested in his work here than in his entire career. 

“This isn’t LA or Portland and I’m thankful for that. Something is happening here, and I can’t put my finger on it,” he said.

Bayens favorite work is the three lamps that he designed which he describes as ubiquitously beautiful. 

“I glue up an 8-inch block of organic strand board and I turn it on a lathe. To experiment I take really inexpensive materials.”

The Utah Design Exhibit was originally created by Chris Proctor who works in a woodshop downtown called The Furniture Joint. The inspiration for the show came from the realization that he knew many talented woodworkers. 

He began by recruiting his participants off of Instagram by searching for furniture hashtags. For the first two years of the show he had roughly 12 different exhibitors display their work at the clubhouse SLC. 

At the shows he networked with Eric Jacoby and Dustin Matinkhah who were both interested in what the event could become.

They approached Proctor and discussed organizing a board of directors. After organizing the idea, they filed the business as a Benefit LLC. 

This year the event attracted hundreds of people. Craftsmen rent out space that is based on platform size. 

Proctor is pleased with what the event has become and hopes that it grows to twice the size. He recognizes that the event is something that carves out a specific niche of talent for the Salt Lake area. 

He does not want the show to get very big and instead wants it to maintain the features that make it local and tasteful.

“I think it’s nice to have a really good balance that is a multidisciplinary idea,” Proctor said. “Scale is good, and the event is more about curating in a way to keep it interesting and artful.”