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Arlington man crafts custom furniture

Arlington’s Michael Wendland crafts an organic-looking lamp out of carefully chosen wood at his Catpaw Custom Furniture studio. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington’s Michael Wendland crafts an organic-looking lamp out of carefully chosen wood at his Catpaw Custom Furniture studio.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Michael Wendland has been honing his craft as a woodworker for decades, but it took the recent economic downturn to persuade him to pursue the more artistic side of the field.

“I was a licensed general contractor for 35 years,” said Wendland, who now works out of a shop behind his country home. “As part of that, I built some items of furniture for my customers, but it wasn’t my main job. Then the collapse of 2008 hit. It would have been my fourth economic recovery in the construction industry if I’d stayed in, but I just didn’t have any passion for it anymore.”

So instead of recommitting himself to the business of following the exacting designs of clients, Wendland started Catpaw Custom Furniture to cater to his inner muse, as a longtime collector of wood from a wide variety of different types of trees, with an eye toward unusually shaped pieces of wood.

“I have some old growth wood that should more properly be called ‘ancient growth,’ and some vertical growth fir that you can’t even buy, but I got them because they were fallen trees that had been lying on the ground for 15 years,” Wendland said. “They’re so old that you can’t even make out the rings, the grain is so fine. They’re so tightly packed that you can have 30 years in an inch and a half.”

Like his former occupation as a general contractor, Wendland’s wood collection ranges 35 years and numbers 28 different tree species, and rather than trying to reshape and recolor the wood to fit certain specifications, as he did in construction, his current furniture pieces rely on letting the natural state of the wood speak to him.

“I’ve got a whole rainbow spectrum of wood here, and I never stain it unless it’s required,” said Wendland, whose collection also includes an array of uniquely twisted and gnarled tree roots that he incorporates into his furniture. “Every piece of wood I pick, I trim it to go with what it says or what it acts like it wants to be.”

Wendland’s first public showing of his woodworking was at the Fremont Fair from June 21-23, and he currently has four pieces on display at Fogdog Gallery in downtown Arlington, but he’s hoping that a pair of high-profile shows outside of the state this fall will help make him relatively well-known on a regional level.

For more information on Wendland’s furniture and other woodwork, visit http://catpawcustom.com.

 

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