In the early aughts, Quentin Kelley moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to apprentice for master studio furniture maker Hank Gilpin. “He’s basically a contemporary of Wendell Castle,” Kelley says. “He was a photographer in Vietnam and went to RISD on the GI Bill” with plans to study photography—until a random selection of electives led Gilpin to woodworking. Gilpin’s studio, a converted church, was a place for Kelley to reignite his love of making furniture. He’d recently returned from the Dominican Republic, where he used his engineering degree to refine water and sanitation systems as a Peace Corps volunteer. In his spare time, Kelley made furniture for his apartment, using skills he learned through helping his father build their Massachusetts home growing up. “I don’t know why I never made the decision to pursue woodworking as a profession earlier,” he says. “It was always in the back of my mind.”
When the apprenticeship ended, Kelley returned to Boston and got a job building architectural models. He also rented a studio space, where he spent nights and weekends building his own designs. Soon, an interior designer he met through work commissioned him to design furniture for a project. He never looked back, and founded Infusion Furniture to design and build objects for commercial and residential projects, in 2005.
The firm’s work is a mix of one-off custom pieces and stock items, created in Kelley’s signature pared-down aesthetic. He’s completed dozens objects and projects, all made with first-rate woodworking and fabrication methods. Take his Trio stool, made from solid maple and enhanced with thick lines of color, or Transformer table, a space-saving console that expands from 12” to 36” in a flash. There’s also his ash Workstation, complete with adjustable shelving and storage compartments, and a dining bench made from plain and spalted ash, a process where fungi cause distinctive patterns and coloration in the wood.
Asked what differentiates his firm, Kelley hesitated. For him, the project is personal. “You have to be kind of obsessed with woodworking, because it is a labor of love,” he says. “It is immensely gratifying work, which is part of what drives me to continue doing it. There’s something about working with your hands and trying to build beautiful, functional objects.” He paused, considering the satisfaction of his current work with his time in the Peace Corps. “This is more fulfilling and rewarding for me,” he says. “It might not make much sense, but that’s the truth.”
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