could about this wonderful material called veneer. Adding in
gold leaf, crackle lacquering, stack lamination and trompe
l’oeil carvings, these materials and methods enticed me like
the mystical gods reaching for my soul. I was hooked.
Over the next 20 or so years, Wendell subcontracted me for
his mold making and fiberglass work while I continued to build
my own furniture business and developed my own veneering
techniques with the initial help of his team. I would call him
out of the blue with odd technical issues and he always found
the time to speak to me. He saved my ass more than once.
Many thought Wendell was aloof or unapproachable; he
might have been introverted, quiet, and shy, but would always
answer questions and talk to new awe-inspired students of
mine or acquaintances while out at openings, Furniture
Society Conferences, and auctions that we attended together.
It was like talking to your wise old grandfather. During one
of my visits, he and his staff were working on a series of large
clocks for an invitational show. What I saw simply proved his
genius: one clock was a 6-foot cone form lying on the floor,
which had a battery-operated, balanced, motorized, self-made
gizmo inside that allowed the cone to roll around in a circle.
North was noon, south 6 o’clock and so on. Hash marks
on the rim marked minutes where it contacted the floor.
Another was a large football shape floating in a pool of water:
this ball rotated on the point to point axis to tell the minutes
and swiveled 360 degrees for the hours, all while floating in
the water. Like his work or not, just the mechanics of this was
mind blowing. (Try guessing how that worked?)
Wendell would come to my openings and support me just
with his presence. I worked for his wife, creating larger molds
on her Triad ceramic sculpture for Rochester’s International
Airport, and it was wonderful being in the studio, with all the
creative juices flowing and work being cranked out.
Most of us work alone in our shops or with employees
who (dare I say) are usually below our skill and creative level,
but at Wendell’s, everyone was level and above, which raised
my game. I was like a sponge; I spent my breaks wondering,
thinking, and continuing to prod for more information like
how, what, why, how about this… We would occasionally go
back to his house for lunch and sit in a porch swing with tea
and have all sorts of creative conversations.
Wendell and Nancy hired me to renovate their master
bathroom. The house is so awesome, funky art is everywhere,
and everything is handmade. Free standing Doric columns
in the kitchen/dining area are reminiscent of the inside of a
Roman temple; they overlook the green house, which suggests
the Louvre’s glass pyramids. A secret door and staircase from
the dining room leads upstairs. A ping pong table is in the
living room, where I don’t recall ever winning a game. Large
paintings and works of sculptures from other friends line the
space. Sketches, models, bits and pieces of found objects are
spread all over eagerly waiting to be morphed into something
great. It is a magical place.
Wendell had a great eye for form and visualized contour
Wendell with his carving robot and model in hand.
Wendell Castle at his desk surrounded by models.