Christopher Quist Kautz is a craftsman striving to combine technical virtuosity with great sensitivity to wood. As a designer and studio furniture maker, he works to manifest comfort, balance and animism in his work. Growing up in the mountains of western Maine, his first toys were sticks, and soon he attached them to his feet to go skiing. Highly influenced by the trees and rivers of his youth, he became determined to pursue scientific understanding of landscape form and process.
After graduating from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Geology, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study river systems in New Zealand. His M.Sc. work at the University of Otago in Dunedin focused on the fluvial transport of physical and chemical weathering products. This study combined painstaking lab and field work in an attempt to develop a detailed understanding of the global river network. While technically and intellectually challenging, this project eventually revealed a deep personal divide between Chris' artistic and scientific ambitions. Bone carving in the Maori tradition proved a powerful counterbalance to long hours compiling geochemical data, as well as an inroad to the appreciation for craft-based cultures. The necessity for accuracy and integrity imparted by both styles of work (one scientific, the other spiritually charged) would prove important in later work habits in wood.
Following the Fulbright, he returned to the U.S. and apprenticed to a master builder in the San Juan Islands of Washington. During this time he began prospecting for rare and exotic native woods and carving extensively with Northwest coast crooked knives. He also began teaching himself to build Aleut and Greenlandic skin-on-frame kayaks and paddles.
Following his desire for deeper knowledge of wood and craftsmanship, Christopher then moved to the heart of New York City to teach traditional wooden boatbuilding. Employed by Rocking the Boat, he was now apprenticed to a revolving group of twenty Bronx teenagers and worked to translate the principles of craftsmanship into the language of urban teens.
This was a time of rapid growth, both technically and mentally. Christopher worked full time teaching boatbuilding and half-time on furniture. Inundated with new visual stimuli and progressive modern art, he began drawing in an attempt to distill urban landscapes— to animate them. Coupled with his immersion in traditional Japanese and European joinery and design, full scale furniture drawings began to materialize. The combination of these pursuits and a growing love of trees themselves led to his complete focus on furniture.
The wood itself became his muse, the initator. Trees, as individual as people, provided the elemental material— a substrate on which to develop design forms and shapes. It quickly became apparent that the only way to respect and honor the material was through complete commitment to technical perfection. The wood required nothing less than humility and hard striving.
Pursuing the time and space in which to take his design practice deeper, Chris decided to leave the city. Now creating a studio in rural Montana while retaining direct ties to New York City and the Pacific Northwest, he designs and builds furniture that merges animated forms with deep reverence for traditional joinery and the wood itself. While custom work fills many of his days, he has also found time to launch cranewalk a design-based line of housewares and furniture that makes his work available to a wider audience while addressing issues of sustainability and ethics in manufacturing.