A poster depicting the Vitra Design Museum’s iconic mid-century chair collection hangs in Christina Boy’s studio, located on her father-in-law’s farm in rural Madison, Virginia. These iconic chair profiles and the studio’s bucolic setting have both come to influence Boy’s work: The German native grew up loving Bauhaus and Scandinavian design, and that pared-down simplicity informs the furniture she builds with hardwoods sourced from the rolling Virginia countryside and nearby environs.
“I love the less-is-more approach, but I also love pattern, texture and color,” says Boy, 40, whose studio faces a pastoral horizon ringed by the Shenandoah mountains. “The colors I use a lot in my work are those I have all around me. They speak to me.” For example, some of her chairs and tables are striped in multiple hues of sanded-down milk paint. The rustic stripes remind her of aerial shots of fields and landscapes, like rows of freshly cut hay cross-hatched with tire tracks.
Boy trained as an apprentice at a commercial furniture and design showroom in Bonn, Germany, where she learned how to draft. Then Virginia Commonwealth University’s crafts and materials program lured her to the States. “I wanted to learn how to make the furniture, not just sell it,” she observes. Boy interned with Arlington designer Julia Overton for a year before starting school in 2003. After graduating, she honed her furniture-making skills with a two-year fellowship in woodworking at the Penland School of Craft near Asheville, North Carolina.
A major part of Boy’s studio work begins before she cuts the first piece of wood. “I keep a sketch book. Sometimes I’ll sketch something 20 times, and every time the angles change just a little bit,” she explains. Recent commissions include a clean-lined coffee table made with white oak sourced from Montpelier, the nearby estate of James Madison; a shelf under the tabletop is framed with a knobby, whitewashed border. “I draw the pattern on the wood, then cut it freehand using a band saw,” Boy says. “It’s very meditative once you get going—one little cut after another.”
She employed a similar method on walnut end tables whose sides are lined with brass-studded poplar slats and textured with sanded layers of blue-green, orange and black paint. “I always try to find a way to keep the lines simple, but I love to add a little bit of funkiness,” she reveals.
Boy built her studio—an addition to an existing building on the farm—with her husband, Robert Turner, who works in his family’s construction business by day but shares her artistic sensibilities. They took pottery classes together when they first started dating, and Turner has since begun to make jewelry, which he sells while she’s displaying her work at area craft shows.
As Boy fabricates each piece, she recycles nearly all of its byproducts: Sawdust goes to the barn as bedding for the cows, and wood scraps go to Turner’s aunts and uncles as kindling for their wood stoves. The artist uses other leftovers to make decorative items for her home, located down the street—a modern A-frame that was the first house Turner ever built.
As someone who professes to get bored easily, Boy’s work is constantly evolving. She’s currently exploring new disciplines, such as weaving Danish paper cord, rope and leather to form seats on benches and barstools. “It’s another way for me to add texture to my pieces,” she notes. She’s also taken classes in blacksmithing and welding with noted metalworker Vivian Beer and hopes to collaborate with local blacksmiths to design furniture in the future. Whatever the medium, Boy’s ongoing fascination with new methods and materials resonates with clients who cherish her one-of-a-kind pieces—in the same way Boy relishes the design profiles of the chairs on that Vitra poster she’s had since she was 19: “It’s been a huge source of inspiration. Even 21 years later, I still find details I’ve not noticed before.”
Christina Boy will exhibit her work October 5 and 6 in Williamsburg’s “An Occasion for the Arts” show; and October 11 to 13 in Easton’s Academy Art Museum Craft Show. For more information, visit christinaboydesign.com.