Wendel Castle: A Legend That Represents The American Craftsmanship

Wendel Castle: A Legend That Represents The American Craftsmanship – Also known as the eternal dreamer, the designer marked the word or American art and design with his unique handmade masterpieces. Castle will be always remembered as one of the American icons and serve as an inspiration for many artists!

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Although many people don’t know, the United States of America is a country with a rich craftsmanship history thanks to the iconic artistic movement called “American Craftsman Style” or “American Arts and Crafts Movement”. This was an American domestic architecturalinterior design, landscape design, applied arts, and decorative arts style and lifestyle philosophy which began in the last years of the 19th century and remained popular into the 1930s. The art and design movement that defended the honor of the American craftsmanship inspired many renowned artists and interior designers, including the great Wendel Castle!

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Wendell Castle’s Workshop. Photo: ©W Magazine

Born in Emporia, Kansas, in 1932, Wendell Castle was a true giant in the world of design… In his childhood years, he struggled with dyslexia. “I was not good at anything”, he confessed in 2016. The only exceptions were “drawing and daydreaming, neither of which were valued”.

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“Vermilion Desk and Chair” (1965) by Wendell Castle. Made of vermillion wood. Photo: ©incollect

This life experience served as a motivation story for many younger artists who might be suffering their own setbacks and self-doubts. His inspiring message to the ones that were just beginning their career was: a new reality is there, just waiting to be imagined, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Triad Chair (2006) by Wendell Castle. Made of gilt fiberglass. Photo: ©cooperhewitt

With a pure creative drive, which would stay with him lifelong, Wendell prevailed over his early obstacles and entered an industrial design program at the University of Kansas. He began his career, however, through sculpture, receiving a Master of Fine Arts in that field in 1961.

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Photo: ©Wendell Castle: A Portrait

A decade before the concept of radical design emerged, he began reinventing furniture forms at every level. His earliest craftsmanship works were sinuous and sculptural, all choreographed curves, not a straight line or right angle to be seen.


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Triad Chair (2006) by Wendell Castle. Made of gilt fiberglass. Photo: ©cooperhewitt

Using traditional joinery, Castle brought to life his art pieces, but with very peculiar cage-like structures and curved elements, which he carved from gunstocks. Thanks to his beautiful and innovative craftsmanship masterpieces he was invited to be an instructor in the furniture department at the School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology. Although he left his position there in 1971, he would later return as an Artist in Residence and remained in Rochester, New York, for the rest of his life.

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“Molar Chairs” (1969) by Wendell Castle. Made of fiberglass. Photo: ©1stdibs

He then started to dedicate himself to a new process called “stack lamination” craftsmanship, a technique that allowed him to pursue his imagination wherever it led. Castle created colossal biomorphic tablesseating forms, twisting spiral staircases, extraordinary pieces that engaged the walls and floor of a room in unconventional ways.

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“Ghost Clock” (1985) by Wendell Castle. Photo: ©Smithsonian American Art Museum

His interest in trompe l’oeil originated a series of uncanny still life-based objects, culminating with the Ghost Clock (1985), a beloved icon in the collection of the Renwick GallerySmithsonian American Art Museum. Later, he began to explore the historic furniture styles from which he had always radically departed. His reinventions of Art Deco and Neoclassicism reflected the contemporary postmodern interest in the past and gave him opportunities to explore narrative themes. Some pieces belong to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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