Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two Gates - Two Brothers

Kevin Downing

Kevin has been my brother and a woodworker all his life.  For a number of years he worked with me in the craft.  He stopped doing it professionally some time ago and is now an important force in the DEQ significantly contributing to the air quality we take for granted here in Portland.

He continues to do woodworking creating great beauty though.

This is for his home. It is western red cedar with a bamboo screen in the gate. 

The rafter ends are painted white.  I especially like how some of the rafters are paired closely together.

The gate posts are cut to fit on the granite boulders of the foundation. There is a 3"x1/2" x 24" steel bar running vertically inside the post, through the rock and into a buried concrete foundation.  It looks so great and it is powerfully strong.


My Own Gate,

You have seen the watercolor of this in a previous entry. Here it is. 
It's a combination of styles with carved almost Gothic tracery in bottom panels and the organic Art Nouveau
top rail.

I'm enjoying hand carving more and more.  The tracery was hand carved as was the little sweeping roof over them.

That top curve became more and more thrilling as I carved. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

It has been a while since I last posted on this blog.
I hope you have all missed me. 
I'm back.

I am going to try to be more responsible and post more of the special projects that I am working on and I also plan to spread out a bit and write not only about me. I hope to share some of the more interesting and beautiful details I come across daily.

My current project is a pair of garden gates for my own home. Here is a watercolor I just did to illustrate them.

The bottom panel will be solid with the pair of cutouts. the perimeter of the cutouts will be deeply  relieved by hand carving. I may put a curved cap piece on top of the top rail. We'll see how my motivation holds out. The upper panel area will be 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" vertical pieces set on the diagonal with a 2" spacing.

I have recently come upon some salvaged old growth heart redwood beams. That will be my material.

I'll keep you posted.

And, oh yes check out my website atelierdowning.com 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday, December 03, 2012


I am slowly working on creating a new blog and website.  Until that is up, though, I will continue to try to post here.

I recently had a project I did about a year ago, photographed professionally.

I was asked to design and build an armoire that also opened out into a murphy bed.

We wanted this cabinet to look very old, refined, and elegant and yet present a very deep character.

The wood that was chosen was Oregon white oak.  It is never chosen for cabinetwork because it has so much variability.  It is the preferred wood, though, of Burlington Northern Railroad for its rail car beds. This wood proved to be one of the most difficult I have ever worked with but also the most exciting.

Then there was the opportunity to work in fine detail.

This piece of furniture is suffused with character.


Where most stains are finely ground pigments smeared on the surface of the wood to color it, the finish that I used is a chemical compound that has a chemical reaction with the oak fibers. Bichromate of potash, also known as potassium bichromate, is both carcenogenic and toxic. It is a glow in the dark bright orange water that is brushed on the surface of the oak and in a matter of about five minutes develops this beautiful color that seems to be intrinsic to the wood. You can stand there and watch the change happen as if you were watching a black and white photograph develop in a darkroom chemical bath. After it dries it then gets a clear coat over it to protect it.

The hardware is also very special.  The hinges are barrel hinges five feet long. the finish is a distressed iron. These I got through a company that imports them from Europe.

The pulls are two art nouveau door knobs and a chest handle.

I want to build more cool furniture like this.

Again,  please note that if you are interested in seeing more of my work you will have to go to  Houzz.com
until I have my new website up.

Thank you for your interest.     Mark

Sunday, August 12, 2012



In an effort to fix something that wasn't broken.  Google has twiddled with Blogger and lost many of my pictures.

If you want to see pictures of my work, please try

I'm trying to determine if I can salvage this.  Please be patient.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

A New Door

Art Nouveau is increasingly the source of my inspiration. Art Nouveau forms are organic and derived from nature. I am not so interested in filling space with organic forms as in using them sparingly to focus their power.
I am incorporating them into a door that I am building for my own home.

I have commissioned the artist Patrick Gracewood to collaborate with me in creating this door. Patrick is a sculptor who creates a wide range of beautiful work in various media, and a good friend.  He is painting a portrait of my wife to be installed in the upper panel.  The painting will be in the style of the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha.
 This is Patrick's preliminary work:

Pretty fabulous.
Here are some details from construction.