Throughout our I HeART New Jersey series, we focus on many mediums, from paint and ceramics to textiles and photography. However, we keep coming back to wood for two reasons; because of the number of woodwork artists in New Jersey, and also because it uniquely connects us with nature.
The artists we spoke with this month create pieces of art that are both functional and beautiful. They make furniture customers can enjoy as well as artwork that speaks to artists and buyers alike. After all, wood is a piece of nature we come into contact with every day.
William Thomas Cusick I, Cottage By the Sea Woodwork
In 7th grade, you could find William Cusick turning legs for a cherry end table instead of doing the bare minimum of building a box. Since then, building and creating art and décor continues to intrigue and delight him. This love and curiosity of craftsmanship led him to open Cottage By The Sea, his workshop and showroom in Neptune. (By appointment only.)
Cusick creates custom pieces of furniture for clients throughout New Jersey. Meeting clients to find out what they are looking for is one of his favorite parts of the job. During this process, Cusick learns about their personality and fuses it into a truly unique piece of artistic furniture.
In addition to creating tables, beds, and more, Cusick works with Stephanie Cartier of No Limits Café in Red Bank; he makes furniture for the restaurant. Meanwhile, he plans to offer art workshops at the restaurant.
Mark and Stacey Bair, M.D. Bair Studio
As an artist, Mark Bair went from watercolor to woodworking 20 years ago, and never looked back. Though he made the transition through trial and error, learning many lessons the hard way, the end result is satisfying; turning a block of wood into a piece of art gives him more pleasure than any other art medium.
These days, he mainly hand carves figurative folk art. Additionally, he creates signs, performs restoration work, and takes on personal commissions, but he loves making figures. Bair also has a studio gallery in Audubon, which is “open by chance or appointment,” as he says. At the studio, students can work alongside him to learn more about woodworking and painting, and using the proper tools.
You can find Bair’s work at over 30 fine craft shows as well as the ReFind Gallery in Bayhead; there’s also a permanent collection at the Tuckerton Seaport. Finally, Bair serves as a Master Artisan with the Pennsylvania Guild of Fine Craft.
Ashlesha Parekh, Henna by Ash NJ LLC
Ashlesha Parekh is a resident of Egg Harbor Township with a talent for Henna art. Of course, Henna is a popular tattoo art form using natural dyes to create temporary skin art. So why is she part of a feature about woodworking artists?
Just over a year ago, Parekh discovered pyrography; a technique for decorating wood by burning a design on the surface using a hot, metallic point. In short, it’s sort of like tattoos for wood. Drawing from her experiences growing up in India, she now makes Mandala designs on wood. (Geometric figures representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.) She also enjoys adding Indian ethnic patterns in various forms while showcasing her love of the Garden State, too.
You can find Parekh’s work at Present in Bradley Beach, Dimora in Mullica Hills, and Arts Plus Gallery in Collingswood. Visit her on Facebook and Instagram to see more, or email her for custom orders.
To see more of the best artists in New Jersey, visit I HeART New Jersey: The Complete Series.
Top (Feature) Image: © Mark Bair / M.D. Bair Studio
Additional Images (in Order):
William Thomas Cusick / Cottage by the Sea Woodwork
Mark Bair / M.D. Bair Studio
Ashlesha Parekh / Henna by Ash NJ LLC