One of a Kind:
By Heather Wood
published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Real Estate section
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Russell Moore is a master craftsman in the making. The 43-year-old artist and self-styled "handyman" is garnering accolades these days -- not for his amazingly detailed illustrations, but for his hand-carved doors.
If you've ever visited the Poeh Cultural Center in Pojoaque or the new Buffalo Thunder Resort, you've probably seen his work. Moore's doors have been recognized over the past few years for their intricate and unique designs and attention to detail, as well as for the overall quality of the finished pieces.
Pueblo of Pojoaque Gov. George Rivera, an internationally recognized artist himself, sought out Moore for the entry door for the Poeh Center. "I've known Russell a long time," Rivera says. "We took the same art classes in high school at Santa Fe High."
Moore, whose family's roots are in Texas, moved to Santa Fe in 1978 from California. After graduating as valedictorian of Santa Fe High's class of '83, he headed off to Brown University in Providence, R.I., to pursue the family tradition -- medical school. That's where he realized that while he was a "decent" student, what interested him most was playing soccer and studying art. After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in pre-med and art, Moore decided to forgo medical school to pursue what makes him happy -- art.
In the late 1980s, Rivera was assistant teacher of sculpture at the Cleveland Institute of Art's program at the Lacoste School of the Arts in France. Recognizing Moore's talent and passion, Rivera brought him to France in 1987, where he filled the role of assistant drawing teacher from 1988 through 1989. After his two years in Europe, Moore returned to Northern New Mexico. But instead of creating art for a paycheck, he ended up doing a variety of odd jobs.
"I'm just a local guy who scrapes by," Moore says modestly. "I've done everything from fixing toilets to building houses to patching roofs. You name it -- I've done it. I'm a traditional artist, figure drawing. I've always drawn since I was a kid, but I don't want to do it for a living. I just wanted to keep my art to myself."
It's no surprise, though, that this highly trained and imaginative mind would find an outlet in his daily work. "I just walked into a woodshop one day, with no experience, and got a job," Moore explains. "Two years later, I started my own shop. About six months after that, Governor Rivera got me my first door job at the Poeh Center. That was the first time I'd ever carved. I had no practical experience whatsoever."
Object vs. idea
While many see Moore's doors as art, he sees them differently. "I was attracted to them because they're more utilitarian and people respond to them as an object versus an idea," he explains. Seeking inspiration for his work at Buffalo Thunder, Moore spent considerable time at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture studying the motifs on pots.
"He's very conscientious about what people are interested in and what he's going to put his name on. As far as an artist, it's pure integrity with him," Rivera says of Moore's work.
Moore prefers to do a project from start to finish -- creating the design, building the door, carving, finishing and even installing it. In the case of Buffalo Thunder, he created the design but the doors were manufactured by a third party.
"All my designs come from my mind," he says. "If you're going to make something you want to call your own, it better be. I give clients a one-of-a-kind product.
"Furniture-making is a dying art," Moore adds. "Doors have a scale to them, and people are willing to pay for that. Most people would rather order their furniture from Crate and Barrel, but doors will always stay in the realm of the craftsmen."
At his woodshop in Abiquiú, he works with Tom Loveland. "Tom often builds the doors and I carve them. We're associates. I'm lucky I found someone who likes to build them as much as I like to carve."
An 'amazing carver'
Mike Krupnick, a local architect and owner of Krupnick Studios, met Moore in a roundabout way and has been working with him ever since.
"I ski Taos, Russell skis Taos," Krupnick explains. "One day while skiing I lost the keys to my car. I asked this guy if he could give me a ride back to Santa Fe. On the drive back he showed me his portfolio of work. He's very well versed in styles, architecture -- and he's an amazing carver."
A review of Moore's portfolio shows a host of intricately carved, custom furniture designs in addition to the doors, which range from sleek, blonde and modern entryways to rough-hewn, Spanish Colonial-style pine doors with heavy wrought-iron knobs.
Krupnick sought Moore's craftsmanship for a home in Boulder, Colo. "Russell lives the dream . . . He has the discipline of being educated but the heart of an artist," he says.
Moore carves mostly in pine, which, he says, is "the easiest." His first attempt carving in hardwood was a cherry door in Krupnick's Boulder house -- a modern interpretation of a vine. Drawing his inspiration from nature, Moore spends much of his time creating designs for projects yet to be commissioned. "I do a lot of doodling. I have so many door ideas . . . a cabinet full of designs. I just have lots of ideas.
"I've been able to do stuff that is unique, one-of-a-kind," Moore says. "By being selective, I hope to develop a one-of-a-kind door business. Not stuff you find at the local Home Depot," he notes.
Labeling himself a "rookie," Moore says he has "a certain capacity to visualize a design." And he's looked to experts like local master carver Ivan Dimitrov for guidance. "He has been very supportive . . . a great resource. He's shown me how to translate my designs to wood."
Paul Margetson, general manager and managing partner at Hotel Santa Fe, saw an opportunity to bring Moore's creativity to the new spa facility being built at the hotel.
"I've known Russell for many years and he's done some wonderful installations over time. We started talking about the spa. My wife, Ashley, has been the primary designer. I put them in touch and they collaborated. He came back with designs for the spa door, and we're delighted with what he came up with."
"Russell is highly educated, self-propelling . . . truly a Renaissance man," Ashley Margetson says. "The hotel is a Native American partnership. We thought it appropriate that the doors reflect native roots. Russell did research on Native American designs and imagery to inform his design."
When asked if he ever plans to show his illustrations, Moore says, "I think something has to be really good to be hung on a wall and called art." Prolific in not only his door designs, but his artwork, he points out, "I used to draw right-handed, now I draw left-handed. I draw with both hands now, a lot."
Asked if he will pursue his success with carving, particularly doors, Moore laughs. "It's too late to go back to med school," he says.
Russell Moore can be reached at 670-8099 or
Heather Wood is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached through her website at www.HeatherWoodFreelance.com.
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