Have you ever heard of Sam Maloof? If you are a woodcarver, he’s somebody you should know. Maloof was praised by President Jimmy Carter. Carter called Maloof “the best woodworker who ever lived.” That kind of praise deserves an investigation!
Born in 1916, Maloof learned English as a third language. His parents were from Lebanon. After serving in World War II, Maloof returned to his home state of California. He married a woman named Alfreda Ward, and the two remained together until her death 50 years later. Alfreda became Maloof’s business manager, champion, and emotional pillar. Her support was crucial. This is because Maloof firmly believed his life’s calling was to fashion perfect furniture out of wood.
You can see images of Maloof’s master woodwork in a new book. Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker provides insights into the man’s work. Each chapter consists of an interview with a person who knew Maloof. These interviews include words from Maloof’s son, his second wife, the pastor of his Methodist church, former apprentices, a schoolteacher, and more. There are also conversations with artists who were inspired by Maloof’s craft and lifelong dedication to woodworking.
The book is an inspiring read. Maloof was self-taught, and his reputation grew as he traded his furniture with other artists. In 1985, he was the first woodcarver to win a MacArthur fellowship. If you are a woodcarver, there is much you can learn from Maloof. Take the time to check this book out of your local library!