Bungendore Wood Works Gallery
Artistic Director and founder of Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, represents the epitome of the term “journeyman”.
He began that journey in 1973 on the corner of Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue and 27th Street when he responded to the classic ‘Help wanted’ sign in a gallery called Impressions in Wood.In the basement workshop he worked with up to seven male and female makers. All talked incessantly about woodworking techniques and design
Mac Laren became possessed and obsessed with shaping timber and was hooked on woodworking, influenced by the natural edge furniture of George Nakashima and the stack laminated sculptural furniture of Wendell Castle.(This sculptural focus, based on structure, resurfaces with the suite of chairs in this exhibition.)
After two years he moved on to a larger space with four other makers on the Lower East Side, just off the infamous Bowery. Building domestic furniture and kitchens from White Oak and Walnut, and fit-outs for architects, became the main game while always designing and making small items for craft fairs.
Mac Laren’s network of makers and experience with materials and techniques grew in those exciting times offering a superb education in the wood medium. In 1977 he left the US for the wide-open spaces of Australia settling near Bungendore in Southern NSW
Armed with a quantity of American Black Walnut and a desire to create ‘a place for woodworkers to display this works, where diversity is encouraged and fine craftsmanship essential,” Mac Laren approached seven or eight makers from the region and asked them to produce a piece from the Black Walnut. In 1983 Bungendore Wood Works Gallery was born out of this exhibition of fine wood work in the heritage listed Bungendore Store building opposite the present day site.
Twelve years ago a heart wrenching fire claimed his workshop, tools, timber and work in progress. All were lost. The charred remains of his machinery still displays the name, Rudolf Bass Machinery, New York City and the loss closed another chapter in mac Laren’s journey.Philosophically it meant a time for review, for a change of direction perhaps.
In 2003, a new workshop emerged phoenix-like from the ashes, and a more limited and considered continuance of the maker’s journey began. This phase gave rise to new designs and prototype works laced with innovation and experimentation, culminating in the work on show in this exhibition, ironically his first in nearly 40 years of woodworking.
Bungendore Wood Works Gallery began as a “place to display” and Mac Laren has elevated that display to the level of an art form. Under this daily direction, he and his staff display the country’s finest wood work from its best makers, matched with an exceptional level of customer service.Getting it right is an endless quest and one more step of the ongoing journey.