Masters: Tom Loeser

Masters: Tom Loeser

Published on Monday, September 17, 2012. This article appears in the October/November 2012 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Tom Loeser Portrait

Photo: David E. Jackson

Tom Loeser’s work can be found in nearly every major U.S. craft institution. And yet “I actually like it when craft disappears,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a cliché, but I do believe technique can set you free. When you reach a certain level of technique, it becomes less important – and you can move on to concepts and ideas and what your work is about.”

Conceptual grist is part of what’s kept the inventive woodworker, with an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, so happy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the past 20 years. The program he runs, wood/furniture, is part of the university’s art department, along with other 3D/4D and 2D endeavors – no battle lines drawn. “I end up on printmakers’ committees, even painters’ – everything – and it’s kept me excited about being a maker,” he says. “It’s been a real challenge to learn how to talk about that work, to be in this constant mixing and matching of professors, seeing different students. And I tend to get really, really interesting graduate students.”

Loeser does his part to keep things interesting. Ten years ago, he transformed part of the campus workshop into a boatyard and invited a young boatbuilder to be resident artist. It set him down a creative path that culminated in “Flotilla,” a solo show of aquatic vessels at Mobilia Gallery in 2008. Currently, he is collaborating with his wife, Bird Ross, on reading pods for the Madison Public Library – “probably the biggest things I’ve ever made.”

What’s next? “I’m interested in learning new ways that people are working with materials and repurposing materials,” he says, “but I don’t really know what my future work will be.”