May 3 2016 03:43 PM

San Diego Art Prize recipient makes much more than furniture

Peter Nelson Scheidt
Photo by Yvonne Mouser

In this semi-regular column, we profile local crafters whose wares we love.

When the recipients of the San Diego Art Prize were announced recently, Peter Nelson Scheidt's name definitely stood out. The annual prize—which pairs a local established artist with an up-and-coming, emerging artist—had sculptor Wendy Maruyama choosing Scheidt as her choice for an emerging artist. While Maruyama is known for nature-based sculptural works, Scheidt works primarily in woodworking and carpentry. An MFA student at San Diego State University's Furniture Design program, Scheidt has plenty of nice-looking benches and tables on his website, but it's his recent experimentation with the concepts and rules that apply to furniture making that caught the eye of Maruyama.

"Furniture has this tradition of craft and it's still very important to me that my pieces are functional and durable, but there's a looseness of energy that an object can have and still be functional," Scheidt says. "It doesn't have to be sophisticated and planned out on paper down to the very last screw."

As could almost be predicted, Scheidt grew up on a farm in northern Illinois.

"Carpentry-wise, we definitely had a lot of old buildings to work on all the time," says Scheidt, who also works as a repair machinist at SDSU. "That make-do attitude always stuck with me."

He went to college at Brown University, majoring in what he calls a "typical Liberal Arts education" at the Ivy League institution. He says SDSU's furniture program was a good fit and helped him focus more on what he calls the "sculptural" and "gallery" side of furniture making as opposed to commissioned work.

Case in point: The piece he'll be debuting at the Art Prize exhibition, which opens May 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library (1008 Wall St.) in La Jolla, will be, well, much more art-focused than anything he's done before. He calls it a "mobile spoon-making workshop on a bicycle." To hear him explain it, it's a bicycle that he's converted into a wood-making machine. The bicycle goes around and collects discarded furniture pieces and carves spoons out of it.

"The rules for spoon-making are very simple. Democratic almost," says Scheidt, who can't help but laugh while explaining the new piece and says he got the idea while commuting around town on his bike, seeing all the discarded furniture and wishing he could take it all home. "It's knives and chisels and basic saws so it all fits really nice on a bicycle. It does look a bit cluttered, but I like to think it looks a lot like a carpentry workshop."

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