It’s unlikely that you would wander into Bob Lucking’s Sperryville furniture workshop by accident — but if you did, there’s an excellent chance you’d also wander into Bob Lucking.
If you don’t see him right off, just follow the dogs, or the sound of a Jackson Browne or James Taylor song, into the spacious, light-filled workshop. Bob’s the barefoot guy (in summertime, anyway) in the white T-shirt, moving from pencil and paper to saws, clamps and chisels with a quiet, unassuming ease.
In a typical week, “I’m here about 90 percent of the time,” says Lucking, 58, of the hideaway — workshop downstairs, cherry-paneled home upstairs, mom’s house next door — that he and his family built over the past decade-plus near the end of unpaved and mostly single-track Spyder Mountain Lane, a stone’s throw from Shenandoah National Park. “And I live upstairs, so my commute is about 17 steps and I’m here . . . but I love it that way. That was the plan all along.”
(In the workshop and on hikes with the dogs, the latter being one of the ways he likes to come up with new ideas or refines old ones, Lucking is one of those people who’s always in motion. But he recently sat still long enough for the interview that’s part of a new short “Artists of Rappahannock” video. For more about the video, the second in a recently begun series exploring the relationship of art and nature in Rappahannock County, see the bottom of this page.)
Lucking came to Rappahannock 26 years ago, at the invitation of furniture master Peter Kramer, who had a summer showroom on Cape Cod, where Lucking and his wife, Carol, lived at the time. “I used to go and visit him, and we talked about furniture,” he says. “He offered me a job, he said if we ever wanted to come to Virginia, he’d give me some work . . . . So we came down, figuring we’d spend a year or two down here, and the rest is history. We just stayed. I fell in love with the mountains, and I can’t leave.”
The Luckings raised three kids in Sperryville, now grown and on their own, and between building a home and workshop, and his furniture and custom cabinetry projects, Lucking also built a house next door for his mother, now 92. “I don’t know if I’m keeping an eye on her or she’s keeping an eye on me, but it works,” he says.
Though he often works from others’ designs, Lucking says the best moments of his career come when he can conceive, plan and build something unique, often with unexpected curves that call for bending laminated boards over intricate forms, and contrasting woods (including cherry, maple and native locust) that meet in exposed dovetail joints and wedges.
“That’s where the real satisfaction comes, for me, as an artist and as a craftsman,” he says.
Speaking of that, Lucking believes that between artist and craftsman — as in precision woodworking in general — there exists a very fine line.
“I look at myself as a craftsman,” he says. “And you can call that being an artist, as well. I kinda feel like there are a lot of people out there that are artists. . . . You know, I see somebody mow a lawn, and I see art in that.
“I think it’s a matter of doing your job and doing it really well,” he says. “And that’s, to me, what art is.”
Artists of Rappahannock: Bob Lucking
The video on Sperryville furniture craftsman Bob Lucking, the second in a series of short videos on the Artists of Rappahannock made possible with a grant from the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community’s Claudia Mitchell Fund, can be found online at Synergist Media’s YouTube channel (bit.ly/synergistyoutube), as well as on the rappnews.com website. More videos are being added every few weeks through October.
The videos are produced by Rappahannock News Contributing Editor Roger Piantadosi, with photographer/videographer Luke Christopher. More online at synergistmedia.org.