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A Brush with Art

Talent, work ethic drives woodworker

Thirty years have passed since highly regarded furniture artist Paul Henry opened his Carlsbad Village studio. 

During the past three decades he has developed a level of skill and aesthetics in his work which is considered by many to be fine art. His highly awarded craftsmanship and sense of design have earned him gallery and museum shows throughout the country, as well as presence in many books and national publications.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Henry’s subtle sense of humor becomes apparent while speaking of his early years: “I went to school as an Anthropology major, which certainly makes me see things in terms of cultural art and artifacts, and which qualified me to play in a rock and roll band after college.” Henry relocated to this area in 1978 via Boston, where he began his woodworking career by happenstance. He says of his arrival in San Diego, “I came to Southern California with an East Coast discipline and ambition, and I found great opportunities by returning phone calls and showing up on time, even when the surf was up.”

This serious work ethic laid the groundwork for his reputation as a respected craftsman.

As an involved member of the community, Henry served for six years on the Encinitas Park and Recreation Commission, as well as a term on the Encinitas Commission for the Arts.

When his first entry in the Del Mar Fair’s “Design in Wood” competition won Best of Show, Henry gained confidence in his design ability and began considering the artistic possibilities of his work. He explains his approach, “I have a great respect for the history of furniture, and I borrow freely from that repertoire, but the work also incorporates found objects and materials not usually associated with furniture that bring a contemporary sensibility to traditional forms.” Henry says that the steel belted radial tire treads he often incorporates into his pieces lend both “a sense of design and a sense of humor” and adds, “Unfortunately the original manufacturer’s warranty is void.” The sixteen year veteran woodworking instructor at Palomar College avoids using rare materials and gravitates towards more renewable resources and non-endangered woods in his work.

One wouldn’t ordinarily think of furniture as being a means of political statement. However, his “New American Empire” collection includes pieces such as one titled “Empire Sideboard,” which speaks to injustices of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp by incorporating blindfolded and shacked figures as the furniture legs. He says of the collection, “I am looking to re-examine … early 19th century furniture forms and remake them with an eye towards early 21st century political realities.” These pieces and more can be seen at The artist will be hosting a thirty-year anniversary celebration on August 12 at his studio located at 2633 State Street, where select pieces of his work will be on view and available for purchase.

For details regarding the event, please contact the artist at

Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at

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