Textile Artist & Curator
“Variety is the spice of life as long as it’s made from wood.”
Murray Swantee (1937 - 2017)
Murray Swantee was a brilliant woodworker and avid supporter of craft in the province. Beginning as a young boy to make his own toy trucks, he cultivated an extraordinary talent with wood: turning, fabrication, and carpentry of furniture, vessels, jewelry boxes and much more. Rustic Revolution is the Craft Council Gallery, through its curator Bruno Vinhas, to celebrate the life and work of Swantee’s art and his longstanding commitment to the presentation and development of craft practice in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Murray Swantee was raised on a small farm with a woodlot in Nova Scotia. There, he was given the freedom to explore and develop an appreciation for what nature has to offer. This freedom came after the chores were completed each day and resulted in an outdoors man who enjoyed hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, gardening, and a lover of trees and wood. Having no funds to buy toys, he learned at a very young age to build his own toy trucks and airplanes. Murary’s first tool was a pocketknife and his second was a coping saw with which he made decorative shelf and corner brackets etc.
Not wishing to spend his life farming, he attended university and graduated in 1960 with a degree in electrical engineering. He accepted a job in Newfoundland, which promised exceptional experience in his chosen field. He soon learned that he had patience and a flare for design in both engineering and woodworking, and went on to hone these skills over the years.
Murray’s woodworking projects are varied and include unique garden structures, rustic furniture, household furniture, birdhouses, jewelry boxes, carvings (with a pocket knife,) and much more.
In 1975, he purchased a wood lathe and went on to design and fabricate a number of tools and aids for specific wood turning projects. He also turned numerous bowls and vessels, lamps, candle holders, etc. He was willing to attempt anything.
photo by Rachel Anstey