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Inside Steven Alan

A Visit with Sparhawk

  • Julia from our Brooklyn shop recently went home to Utah to visit her dad, Samuel Sparhawk Alexander, whose handcrafted home goods line, Sparhawk, is carried in our shops. While hanging out in his wood shop, the two got to talking about his love of woodworking.  An excerpt from their conversation:

    Sml. Sparhawk Alexander in his wood shop, wearing our Short Sleeve Single Needle in Navy Patterned Stripe, Acne Roc Jeans, and Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots

    Where did you grow up?
    I was raised in the small town of Conover in the “Northwoods” of Wisconsin. It is a special part of the world with many crystal clear lakes and lush forests. My parents moved there in 1959 when I was four years old. My father, to the horror of his grandfather, had just exchanged fertile Illinois farmland for a rocky Wisconsin farm with a small lumberyard. It was in this small lumberyard, and in our wood shop on the farm, that I learned, at a very young age, to love working with wood.

    Did you receive any training, or just sort of learn on your own?
    I don’t remember being trained to use the equipment in the shop. Certainly my father provided rudimentary safety lessons. The equipment, hand tools, and a few scraps of wood where simply there for me to use as I wished, without any rules or supervision. Looking back, that was quite a gift.


    You eventually decided to pursue a career in architecture. How did you manage to keep up with your childhood hobby through the years?
    After a youth spent making multitudes of wooden boxes, bun racks, and other utilitarian items for our house and farm, I moved, at my father’s insistence, to Madison, Wisconsin for college. I had promised him one semester only, knowing, without any doubt, that I was not college material. But, after a rocky first semester, I had made many good friends, and was beginning to enjoy life away from home and, surprisingly, I was becoming more confident academically. I graduated with a bachelors degree (history) and went on, now to my father’s horror, to pursue a second degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota. I have been practicing architecture now for over thirty years, but I have always maintained my love of woodworking. Throughout college, summers were spent back in Conover working with local carpenters, and several years ago, after finding time to build a garage on our small urban Salt Lake City lot, I realized this new structure was never intended to shelter cars: it was a wood shop! A few years earlier I had inherited my father’s old Delta table saw; the same saw I used as a kid. Now it had a home. I have been happily making furniture, and of course, wooden cheese knives, ever since. The old table saw now functions as a base for my small thickness planer.


    Do you feel your interests in architecture and woodworking complement one another?
    I love the immediacy and intimacy of woodworking. It is a great compliment to the practice of architecture where most of my projects take more than a year to complete, and where my role is conceptual and managerial, not tactile. That is especially true today with computers outsourcing pencil and paper.

    Many thanks to Julia and Sparhawk! You can find Sparhawk products at our Home Shop and Chelsea shop.

    - Photos by Jessica Hughes

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 at 4:13 pm and is filed under Home, In Stock. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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