Toronto furniture maker Yorgo Liapis on small-batch furniture, hand shaping and dancing in the shop.
Q & A with Yorgo Liapis
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Sculptural and functional pieces.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Hand tools all the way.
Solid wood or veneer?
Solid wood usually, though shop-sawn veneer is great at times. It’s all about the material’s function.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Flowing curves are a big part of my work.
The more I work with wood, the more woods I like. Ebony is beautiful but it’s too expensive and not environmentally sound.
Least favourite wood?
I don’t have a least favourite wood. I couldn’t say that about any wood. I even like 2×4s. There’s beauty in them, too. Even pine can be great.
Liapis spent some time in Yasuni National Park in Equador, and was inspired to make this piece on his return. The roots of the ficus tree are partially above ground, leading to the design of the base. The top sections have relief-carved leaves and figs.
Also inspired by his time in Equador, where jaguars inhabit, this credenza has ebony and European walnut marquetry. Liapis has made a number of pieces in this collection.
Quotes from Yorgo Liapis
I usually start around 10 a.m. and leave the shop around 10 p.m., but I’m fine with taking a long lunch break as well as a 5 p.m. break to recharge. The studio is my leisure time.
Taking woodworking at Central Tech High School was a changing point in my life. Until then I had no direction.
I’m an artist. I’m not going to go near small-batch furniture. I couldn’t last a month making 25 of the same tables.
I’ve developed the “Jaguar” collection, with a number of different pieces in that style.
I often sketch for an hour in the morning while listening to music while I drink some coffee. I also like to dance if nobody is there. I have a weird routine. I’m not your average furniture maker.
I’ve been inspired more by art than woodworking and furniture.
A shape or idea sometimes comes to me first, then I turn that into a design I can work with.
I usually have an idea in my sketchbook for years before it gets made. It’s only as I’m going about my life that I can fine-tune an idea. There’s a lot of mental energy that goes into the idea, and how I turn the idea into a design.
My “Ficus Table” was inspired by a trip to the Amazon. The roots of that tree are largely above ground.
Adrian Ferrazzutti has made some great pieces. I really love his cabinet titled “Secretary of State.” Michael Fortune’s technical skills are incredible. Reed Hansuld is a good friend of mine and a great artist.
I’m working on a “poster” about Dennis Rodman right now. It’s a huge challenge for me.
My “Roots” chair is one of my pieces I’m most proud of. It really pushed my boundaries as a furniture maker.
With the “Roots” chair I drew one back leg. I then developed the rest of it through sketches and mockups. It all started from the back leg.
I love the design aspect, but shaping wood with hand planes, spokeshaves, chisels and rasps is great.
I love the idea of a bowl. I like tackling folk art and making it contemporary. I think a huge part of humanity wants to make a bowl. I called mine “Seeds by Sol.”. To make it I built a plywood form with a spinning piece in the middle that helped me lay out each cedar “seed” at 137.5° to the previous seed, just like the seeds of a sunflower.
I enjoy life so much because of my work. It’s all worth it.
Listening to music, being in that rhythm and losing yourself in the shaping process with hand tools is the best part of woodworking.
Yuri Kobayashi is the best woodworker I’ve ever seen in my life. She’s a legendary character and maker who helps people so much. She guided me while I was designing the “Ficus Table,” and I was very grateful she did.
When I went to C.F.C. I didn’t need the technical skills. I wanted to figure out who I was as a woodworker and artist.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.
How inspirational! The world needs more artists like Yorgo Liapis, doing what they love and doing it well. Thanks for the story.