Hi, I’m John Geraghty founder of Grain of Thought Furniture Design and Woodworks, welcome to my website, I hope during your visit here that the spirit of my work might be conveyed, as you can see the care that goes into each piece of furniture that I make.
As far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by making things. As a young boy building sets of any kind were my passion, and then at the age of 6 I received my own tool set and wasted no time making use of it. Building forts, toys, models. These were the days of wonder.
Although my parents were preparing me for a college education, as a boy, all I wanted to do when I grew up was to be a carpenter. After high school I enlisted in the military. I felt that the chance to serve my country while gaining valuable experience would further temper me for a college education. While attending college I used to work in different trades during the summer. I was a carpenters helper, stone masons helper, roofer, sider, etc. I had an aptitude for each trade and really enjoyed working with my hands. Then one day I bought a pick up truck, some tools and embarked on a journey that I hoped to be on well into my winter years.
Over time I’ve accumulated the knowledge to be able to build a house and to do all phases of construction. It was not until I accepted a job as a timber framer in Washington State that my emphasis favored woodworking. To be able to build a home like a piece of furniture really opened my eyes and raised the bar. I’m grateful for my carpentry experiences and continue to learn about this trade. I especially enjoy installing my own architectural woodwork; it’s nice to get out in the field from time to time.
Being onsite always presents new challenges. You really have to be able to think on your feet and to find solutions without the benefit of a shop controlled environment. A tight miter, a door that has been hung well, a run of casework precisely installed, these are a few of my favorite things. Being a woodworker and carpenter has in turn made me a better designer especially concerning spatial relationships and the ability to foresee considerations while still on the drawing board.
My love for the outdoors led me on a journeyman’s journey and I have lived in different parts of the country such as Washington State, Hawaii, New Mexico, and now back in NYC. Wherever I have lived I was always learning, investing in my shop and looking for the finest wood available.
For the most part I am a self taught woodworker and carpenter. As far as the direction of my designs goes, a synthesis of Japanese, shaker, arts and crafts, art nouveau, and organic form provide a liberating way to harmoniously present each piece of wood. Others who have inspired me would be Charles and Henry Greene, George Nakashima, Sam Maloof, James Krenov and John Makepeace to name a few.
When designing a piece I feel that if I put the wood first and honor it the best way that I know, then the end result may be something as timeless as the materials in which were used to make it.
Throughout the design phase the wood itself aides me tremendously. It could happen at the lumber yard as I pick through wood. A design might become so apparent that I will know at that point that there is no turning back, that these boards have found their purpose. Other times a board that I’ve had for 10 years or more might quietly reveal itself as the missing link in a design I’m working on or a design I’ve already worked out but have yet to build. In either case I’ll make a notation on the wood and know that this particular board is one step closer to home.
I take great satisfaction in book matching wood. As much as possible I try to incorporate this into my designs. That said, when seeking out lumber often I’ll look for consecutively sawn boards, and in some cases the entire log section. To my eye and sensibilities when the wood so strongly suggests what it will be, I find no reason to draw out the design, I’ll just build it. Often times I’ll do a freehand sketch of a piece then pull the wood that will accompany it.
When a client requests a scaled drawing I will draft it out, but for architectural woodworking I work with a draftsperson that is proficient with CAD programs.
I use hardwoods primarily for my designs but plywood and veneers also have a place in my work. Most of the veneers I use are made on my band saw. Occasionally I will lay up rare veneers of crotch or burl for door and cabinet panels. My favorite woods, well that’s a hard question. I tend not to judge by species but on the merit of each board unique characteristics. I mean I have boards of red oak that have the striking visual interest that would rival woods costing 6 times more. However one wood that stands out for its excellent workability and sublime beauty would be the fiddle back Swiss pear. I have over 30 species in stock and each board or slab met my hand at either a lumber yard, in the forest or right off the saw mill.
Seeking out beautiful wood continues to be a source for me. It’s becoming easier to do as well with people like Rick and Brian Hearne of Hearne Hardwoods in PA and Scott Roberts from Roberts Plywood in Long Island, NY. They’ve got my number literally, so when something special is coming in they give me the heads up before hand. In Hearne Hardwoods case Rick and Brian have invited me down to see some of these magnificent logs being sawn on their 70” re-saw capacity band saw. An amazing process to be sure!
Half of my work is high end residential in Manhattan; the other half is throughout the United States. I’ve been making my mark in western states for the past few years. Half of my work is generated by referral or repeat clients. 30% by various national shows and their respective website links. With regards to national shows I feel, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, that I should speak softly and bring a big table. It really generates interest in my work.
The last 20% is generated by my website. I’m currently doing a lot of website upgrades to increase that percentage. 90% of my work is residential. I usually have a back log of 3 to 6 months.
Every year my business has enjoyed growth but it has been a challenging adventure all the way. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to invest in machinery and extraordinary woods but to be able to flow with a good design with precision and time saving methods using the finest materials, I find this quite rewarding. With each new design that gets out there I see the future getting brighter.
For the last 8 years in NYC I’ve had 8 apprentices who were sincere about learning the craft. All were college graduates from either, Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design and even a couple from Stanford University. They all found Grain of Thought and they were all design students who had fine teachers. Their parents must have had a cow when they heard that they were working in my show for a stipend.
I enjoy teaching and working with young people. I truly appreciate the enthusiasm they bring into my shop. That light in their eyes as they go on this creative ride, the satisfaction they have felt as they look at a completed piece that they know will be around longer than themselves. Careful direction and patience is required for my part. Communication is key. What I might consider common sense might not even register with someone else, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record I reiterate the ABC’s on a daily basis until I feel one is comfortable working in my shop.
Throughout my career I will continue to take on apprentices. The American woodworkers almost became extinct were it not for the few who said no to the age of factory made goods, and were also generous with sharing their knowledge. I espouse these sentiments and feel a responsibility to continue this dialogue for the betterment of my profession.
When designing a piece I look forward to collaborating with other arts, crafts and trades people. For instance John Lewis Glass in Oakland, CA has proved to be a valuable resource in helping me refine my designs incorporating thick wood with thick glass. I find the possibilities of this combination quite exciting. For upholstery I’ve had the good fortune to find a family of generational upholsters; Howard upholstery in Brooklyn, NY. They operate within the highest standards. Misugi Designs in Fairfield, CA have also been a pleasure to work with for authentic hand forged Japanese hardware. I used to do a lot of my own finishing but I’ve learned to trust the professionals these days.
NYC has been a very good place to get my business on the map but truth be told I’m a country boy at heart. In the next few years, I plan on buying a piece of land back in New Mexico and God willing designing and building my own home. I’m trying to make this move as prudently as possible. That means fostering good relationships with a New York client base that doesn’t care whether I make their furniture in Brooklyn or Taos.
NYC has been a very good place to get my business on the map, just like the song says; “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.
What the future holds is never certain but one thing that is for certain is that when I wake up tomorrow morning and later find myself in my shop doing what I love to do, I will give thanks and continue to follow my bliss.