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- Yaffe Mays
Yaffe Mays is the partnership of Rebecca Yaffe and Laura Mays, established in 2005. The work merges old world techniques with contemporary design principles and aesthetics.
Laura Mays is presently the director of the College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program, a position long held by her mentor, the fine craftsman James Krenov.
Yaffe Mays define themselves as craftspeople. Craft, however, is notoriously difficult to define. It is, as David Pye wrote, ‘a word to start an argument with.’ To them craft means keeping it small and local; using skill, technique, knowledge of materials, and care to make functional things; and using archetypes or ‘patterns’ from the past, while avoiding nostalgia or pastiche.
Yaffe Mays sources hardwoods locally grown and processed (planked and dried) when possible. In Ireland that meant oak, ash, walnut, a little cherry, elm, sycamore. In California it means primarily madrone, tan oak and Claro walnut. They also use wax, oil and shellac as finishes, hand-applied. In addition to the difference in the material of the finish itself, there is a visual difference between a hand-applied finish and a spray finish. Hand-applying means rubbing the wood, which gives it a burnished quality that cannot be replicated by machine. One of the paradoxes of craft is that a craftsperson attempts to use as much skill, care, time and attention as necessary to get the work right – in this case, an even finish – and yet one of the values of craft is an indication of the humanity of the maker, their fallibility and inability to attain perfection. And so we relish that paradox, striving to do our best, but acknowledging that we will never attain any form of perfection.
Yaffe Mays uses traditional woodworking joinery. These joints were developed before synthetic glues and had to be mechanically strong without glue to stay together. Through or exposed joinery differentiates a crafted piece from a mass- produced piece, because it takes skill and attention to get the joint fitting well.