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Stow craftsman uncovers wood’s inner light

John Burke

Jesse Shaw of Watertown was managing projects as a contractor’s assistant 13 years ago when he tried his hand at a custom bookshelf to fit a space with a curved roof. His success in that and other projects led the Brookline native to study at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine, before earning his MFA in furniture design from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2011. After working as the lead furniture designer for Currey & Co. in Atlanta, he opened JShaw Furniture Design in 2014. At his workshop in Stow, Shaw creates distinctive furniture and lighting designs for individual clients and private collections. He teaches at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.

Q. What is your design philosophy?


A. There’s such beauty in wood that when I design, I want to keep the lines clean in order to show off the organic material. I work with the material, as opposed to using the material. It’s a fine balance.

Q. What do you specialize in?

A. Mostly custom furniture and accent lights made from woods that are open-grained enough for light to shine through and create different colors, from gold to amber to pink and red. When you illuminate the right one, it just sparkles. I’ve also done a lot of chuppahs [wedding canopies] since my sister asked for one in 2012. Chuppahs are traditionally used in Jewish ceremonies, but lots of interfaith couples want them as the focal point. In my family, using one has become a tradition, with everyone’s initials carved into the top rail to create a timeline of weddings.

Q. Does building chuppahs have special meaning?

A. The chuppah represents the couple’s first home, which is nice to be part of. Now I use a different joinery process for the tulip poplar which allowed me to get the price down and make the chuppah even easier to assemble. I also rent them to make them even more affordable for families.


Q. What do you enjoy so much about woodworking?

A. The fun part is making something completely new — and as you’re building, the form changes and it becomes something completely different. That still excites me, all these years later.

JShaw Furniture Design is exhibiting at New England Home Show Boston from Feb. 24 through 26 at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center, as well as numerous other local craft shows. For more information, visit jshawfurniture.com.

Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.