From Measuring Starlight to the Flair of Furniture Making by Jim Oleson

Those that wonder about the background  of a custom furniture maker might be surprised to learn that furniture making is actually my third career.

My first career was in physics; after receiving a Ph.D. in Physics at The Johns Hopkins University I did astrophysics research involving design and instrumentation of a specialized telescope on a mountaintop in Arizona. My second career was in medicine; I received an M.D. at the University of Arizona and then completed a residency in Radiation Oncology.  I was on the faculty there and later at Duke University where I was engaged in medical research and clinical practice.
For over 30 years I have made furniture for my home and family. After retiring last year I launched my third career as a full-time custom furniture maker.If asked if my earlier career activities that have prepared me for my success today with handcrafting useful and aesthetically appealing furniture, I would answer this way…

Designing a telescope to measure accurately and precisely the bending of starlight in the sun’s gravitational field is seemingly far removed from furniture making, yet both involve knowledge of material properties, mechanical design, and fabrication. Medical research and practice as well as furniture making involves endless problem solving to achieve objectives: improving a patient’s health or crafting a beautiful object. In both cases a good result is deeply satisfying.

Today I enjoy concentrating on the unique problem solving aspects of designing a furniture piece. I create contemporary functional furniture that emphasizes lines, curves, and balance. I use wood that has beautiful grain and color to reinforce the design concept. During the construction process the emergence of a three dimensional object becomes the source of great satisfaction to me.

As a new member of the Orange County Artists Guild, I am busy making furniture that I will show during the first weekend ( November 5-6) of this year;s OCAG Open Studio Tour. There will be a  variety of tables on exhibit that feature many construction techniques and hardwoods such as oak, cherry, ambrosia maple, walnut, wenge, and bubinga. In case you have not had an opportunity to see my furniture, my work will be shown at the Chapel Hill studio (# 40 on our map) of fellow Guild member Barbara Tyroler,  so during the tour, stop by! 


Check out my website to see many examples of my work. And take a look at the OCAG website to see the work of other artists that will participate in the tour this year. You can also download our brochure/map or pick one up at many places around town.

Posted by: Trudy Thomson at 8:21 pm 1 Comment

OCAG Artists:

Posted in: Furniture