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Artist and craftsman Rock Cross

Carving Station

by Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi | Hawai'i magazine | September 6, 2012

More than a half-century has passed, but Rock Cross clearly remembers the day he fell in love with wood. He was 10 years old. A neighbor in his hometown of San Gabriel, Calif., took him to the workshop of a man who was making a rocking chair.

“When I close my eyes, I can still see that chair,” recalls the award-winning master of contemporary furniture design. “The beauty of the wood, its rich color, its elegant shape—all of that intrigued me.”

Traveling throughout Europe, Africa, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, the West Indies and other exotic destinations a decade later piqued Cross’ interest in art and craftsmanship. “I visited galleries and museums in every country,” he says. “I met artists and craftsmen working with wood and saw the possibilities. We think of wood as being rigid, not malleable, but why can’t it have a sculptural form?”

Today, the craftsman builds furniture that is as beautiful as it is functional. “My inspiration comes from being aware of my surroundings,” says Cross. “Flowers, clouds, birds in flight, the arc of a wave—anything might prompt an idea.”
In his home studio in Laupāhoehoe on Hawai‘i Island, he coaxes obeche from Africa, maple from Italy, birch from Finland and other exotic woods into graceful, fluid shapes that one might think would be impossible to achieve. His pieces—which also include bowls and vases—are elegant, sensuous and alive. What’s equally evident is Cross’ ability to showcase the magnificence of wood in designs that call for patience and precision.

“I hope people feel the energy of my work, and find joy and pleasure in it, as they would a favorite painting or sculpture,” Cross says. “My goal is to design pieces that go beyond filling a designated space and performing a functional role. I like to think of them as furniture, as fine art.”

Rock Cross’ exclusive representative is Martin & MacArthur. Select pieces are available at the company’s stores in Hawai‘i and at martinandmacarthur.com. To inquire about custom orders, call 845.6688.