Professor continues Furniture Design program's legacy

Andy Buck stands next to a life-sized wooden figure he designed.

Andy Buck is no stranger to traveling the globe to showcase his artistry. 

The RIT Furniture Design professor has been making art for more than 30 years, accumulating dozens of accolades while exhibiting his work around the world.

While Buck is a master of his craft, working in furniture design wasn’t always his career aspiration. Prior to dedicating his professional life to becoming an innovator in the field, Buck’s studies led him to political science and a job on Capitol Hill as a congressional aide. On track for law school, it was then that he realized his passion for art and decided to alter his career path. 

“As an undergrad, I enrolled in a furniture design elective for required credits. I soon discovered that making things and using my hands was an amazing and empowering experience,” said Buck, whose RIT teaching career spans 20 years. “After working on the Hill, I learned how strong my passion was to design and make things. I decided at that moment that I would devote my time to something that is unique, artistic and useful at the same time. 

“Furniture design was right for me because it allowed for creative problem solving, the development of my artist voice and the empowering feeling of making things with my hands.” 

Dot Bench by Andy Buck
Andy Buck's "Dot Bench"

Since finding his true interest, Buck has gone global — with an invitation to World Wood Day in Austria this past spring being his latest international venture. World Wood Day is an annual international event held in a different country each year. The event brings together practicing artists and designers from around the globe to share skills and celebrate the sustainable use and potential of wood across various disciplines.

Buck was invited to be a member of the 10-person Wood Design team at the 2019 event.

Wood Design is an amalgamation of different disciplines centered around a common starting point: wood and forest products, according to World Wood Day’s website. Led by Wendy Maruyama ’80 MFA (Woodworking and Furniture Design), the Wood Design team comprises practitioners in contemporary furniture making, design and installation/sculpture. Members of the team all utilize wood as a problem-solving tool, looking for new and unique ways to understand and manipulate the material.

This year’s World Wood Day saw 600 participants from 90 countries. Buck and the rest of the design team worked together to create pieces that were later exhibited at the Open Air Museum in Stubing, Austria, and the Congress in Graz, Austria. Buck’s work is now part of the permanent World Wood Day collection. 

“I loved having the opportunity to learn and share with an international group of artists and designer-makers,” Buck said. “We all had an amazing experience that made the world feel a little smaller.”

A foyer table by Andy Buck
Andy Buck's "Foyer Table"

Buck takes an observant and cultural approach to his designs. He expresses an understanding of a deeper meaning in the art of furniture design and fuels his inspiration with worldly experiences through which he has had the opportunity to teach, create, learn and display work.

Beyond RIT, Buck has taught internationally, most recently running his own three-day master class in October 2018 during the Wood Dust Designer Maker Festival in Australia. His workshop attracted participants from all over, including Tasmania and New Zealand. He was later invited to the Cooroora Institute near Brisbane, Australia, to do a weeklong residency. 

According to Buck, these invitations to travel internationally present an opportunity to share “what we do at RIT with an international audience.” He said he is also able to bring back renewed perspective of all that he has learned to share with his students. 

“Learning never ends and is only enhanced by travel,” he says. “With new friends and colleagues, the ability to cross cultural boundaries and share with an international audience is fantastic.”

This past summer, Buck had two pieces selected into the 66th annual Rochester Finger Lakes Exhibition, Memorial Art Gallery’s prestigious, biennial juried show featuring artists from the region. The exhibit is on view until Sept. 15. Buck was featured in the “Bauhaus Seen” exhibit at Carbondale Arts Gallery in Colorado over the summer as well.

Buck received the Louis D’Amanda Memorial Award in the Rochester Finger Lakes Exhibition for his work in the show.

“I was so happy to present my work at the Memorial Art Gallery in the Finger Lakes Exhibition,” he said. “It was a real surprise to be given the Louis D’Amanda Memorial Award this year — I was so honored.”

A wood design by Andy Buck
"Boot," one of Andy Buck's two pieces in the Rochester Finger Lakes Exhibition. 

With the start of the fall semester, Buck entered his 21st year as a faculty member in RIT’s Furniture Design program. He said it’s a thrill to begin another semester sharing what he loves with students. 

“The Furniture Design program at RIT holds such an important legacy in the field of woodworking and furniture design,” Buck said. “Many of RIT’s visionary instructors such as Tage Frid, Wendell Castle, Jere Osgood, Bill Keyser and Rich Tannen have made incredible contributions to the field and mentored many of the world’s leading designer-makers. As a current member of the faculty, I think about this history, hoping also to contribute in a meaningful way.”

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