Brian Newell began carving wood as a child. He got his first carving tools at age 8 from the local hobby shop, whittling knives, X-Acto knives, and balsa wood. Then he moved to scavenging the wood pile for firewood he’d turn into carving blocks. In junior high school, he got his first set of carving chisels. When he was 16, two things happened that would shape the rest of his life. He took a shop class in high school, and he got his hands on a copy of James Krenov’s A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook.
Of the Krenov work, he says, “At first, I was unimpressed with the cabinets because they were so plain, but by the time I finished reading his book, I was a convert.” The introduction to power tools combined with Krenov’s aesthetic and philosophy propelled him into making furniture. Eventually, Brian studied under Krenov at the College of the Redwoods (now The Krenov School) in Fort Bragg, Calif.
After graduating, Brian moved back to Chicago and worked as a patternmaker, building original scale model prototypes. He learned to read drawings and embrace curved work. From there he established his own shop, moving it from Chicago to Japan and finally back to Fort Bragg, where he lives and builds furniture out of his own shop.