Remembering: Edgar Anderson

Remembering: Edgar Anderson

Joyce and Edgar Anderson (1983)

Joyce and Edgar Anderson in their Morristown, NJ workshop (1983). Photo: Tom Grotta, from American Craft Council archives

It is with great sadness that we share news of the death of Edgar Anderson on January 3, 2015. Mr. Anderson, alongside late wife Joyce (who died in 2014), was a renowned woodworker who created stunning one-of-a-kind commissions of furniture for homes, churches, and offices. Anderson was 92 years old.

Born 1922 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Edgar met Joyce in high school in West Orange, New Jersey. Together they moved to New York City, where Edgar studied mechanical engineering and architecture at the Pratt Institute in New York City throughout the 1940s, prior to and after serving as a private, lieutenant and company commander with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While Edgar was at Pratt, Joyce attended Dickinson College and later New York University, where she earned a master's degree in public affairs and regional studies. Following the couple's marriage in 1946, they moved to Chicago so Edgar could study building construction at Chicago Technical College. During this time Joyce became interested in design and made the decision to join her husband on the path to becoming a designer and builder. Thus began a lifelong collaboration in wood.

With the purchase of land in a wooded area outside Morristown, New Jersey, in 1950, the Andersons started their business in a small shed, using wood from the acreage's walnut, oak, birch, and ash trees in the creation of their earliest custom-built furniture. In 1959, the couple began building their own house and workshop on the property, a project they constructed entirely themselves, from digging the foundation, to installing the heating and plumbing, to crafting the built-in storage and furniture. In 2008, Joyce and Edgar made a preservation agreement with the Harding Land Trust, Harding Township, and New Jersey Audubon to preserve the house upon their passing. According to the agreement, the New Jersey Audubon will convert the house, studio, and buildings on the property into a museum. 

Throughout their five-decade career, the Andersons' furniture was exhibited in museums throughout the country, including the Museum of Contemporary Crafts/American Craft Museum in New York City, the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, and the New Jersey State Museum. The couple also participated in numerous American Craft Council conferences, including the First World Congress of Craftsmen in 1964. Edgar was a founding member of the New Jersey Designer-Craftsmen, and also served as a board member for the Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey.

Upon being nominated to the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 1992, Edgar had this to say:

Recognition as a creative team is doubly gratifying to me. My objective within this symbiotic partnership is to design and make elegant objects for a contemporary environment. I respect the demanding tradition of excellence in craftsmanship, appropriate use of materials, and innovative technical concepts and I believe that curiosity, eclecticism, personal responsibility, and a sense of humor are all indices of mature self-confidence. 

For more on the life and work of Edgar Anderson, please see "Partners in Craftsmanship," an article by Michael Stone from the June/July 1983 issue of American Craft magazine.