It’s been proven time and again that opposites attract. The definition of “complementary” is two different things coming together in a way to flatter one another. Whether we are looking at adverse sides of the color wheel (purple and yellow), combining parts of the food pyramid (steak and potatoes) or exploring opposite sides of our great state (mountains and beaches), mixing it up is always a good way to bring out the best in something.
“I cannot remember the last time I used just one color of wood in one of my pieces,” Ronno Cooke, a woodworking furniture designer from western North Carolina, says. “The contrasts are so appealing to me.”
Cooke has been working with wood and construction since he was 15 when he helped his father build a house. “A few years ago, I took a job building log cabins,” Cooke remembers. “It was custom work, so we had to cut the logs to fit.” After being introduced to custom woodworking, Cooke began working with a custom cabinet-maker. “James [my boss] had a real passion for wood: grains, stains, finishes, species. [His] passion was contagious.”
While working on a custom master bathroom for Shania Twain in the Caribbean, Cooke began to bring scraps of wood home from work. “This was prime wood—cherry, pine—and it was all going to just be thrown away. So I started making tables.”
Cooke’s pieces are mostly tables, carved and designed with the wood colors in mind. Keeping the natural stains front and center, he chooses not to use artificial stains. He also uses enviromentally-friendly rubs and finishes. What makes his furniture special is the organic nature that each piece possesses.
“I don’t use veneers,” Cooke says. “I also don’t use nails or screws. I mostly use dowels to put the tables together. These methods have been used for thousands of years, mostly because they are so fundamental and sound.”
He also looks for curled, inflamed woods that are naturally figured and curved so that he can utilize the direction of the grain. “You actually get movement as your eye goes across the piece. I think it is such a cool anomaly that with such a solid, immoveable object, you can get movement—in the grain. That is so appealing to me.”
Today, Cooke has made quite a name for himself with his color-contrasting wood pieces. Having been featured in his first national magazine this year, Cooke has been keeping busy with his custom orders and being one of an exclusive group of designers chosen to decorate the interior of a model home in Asheville.
“They gave me the dining room table, the living room coffee table and a bench for the garden,” he says proudly. “Being selected for that project really made me feel like I was doing something right. This is what I need to be doing.”
The natural woods and rich mountain influence of Cooke’s Asheville designs may seem to have nothing in common with the coastal scenes of the Port City and its beaches. However, Wilmington painter Phil Meade shares Cooke’s passion for color contrast.
“I’m very aware of colors,” Meade claims. “I love how they complement each other. I like to find patterns in grays, lights and darks.”
Meade is recently retired from a 40-year career in graphic design and art. Today, he paints full-time at home. His portfolio is filled with beach-themed paintings, mostly with a bright pastel pallette. He finds inspiration in buildings, sand dunes and rocks, pouring a special morning light onto his subjects with his signature pink-and-blue sunrises.
“I really find something special in morning light,” he says. “I appreciate the shadows and the way the light is dappled across the landscape. It almost glows.”
Somehow, these two completely different artists end up complementing each other, just like the colors in their works. When combined with the soft morning-light beach scenes of Phil Meade’s paintings, Cooke’s tables look stronger, more dignified and more powerful. The organic twists and curves of the grain mesh with the grain of the beach sand, bringing out the sunny tones in the pine.
As for Meade’s work, the romance of his color pallette is enhanced by the severity of the wood furniture. Two such polar ends of the art world actually strengthen each other when displayed together, brought together by each of these brilliant artists’ love of contrast.
This week Wilmington art patrons will get a chance to see both collections when Spectrum Art & Jewelry hosts their monthly Open House and Wine Tasting featuring an opportunity to meet Phil Meade and Ronno Cooke.
Nancy Noel May, galley manager, says that Cooke will be taking appointments for custom orders while he's in town. “Friday and Saturday, Mr. Cooke will be meeting with potential customers about commissioning custom furniture designs. His pieces are gorgeous and the craftsmanship is outstanding.” Appointments are still available. Contact the gallery to book yours.
The “meet and greet” will feature wine supplied by Wine Styles in Landfall Center and will be held on Friday, March 14th from 6pm - 8pm. Spectrum Art & Jewelry is located in The Forum at 1125-H Military Cutoff Road. Visit http://www.spectrumartandjewelry.com/ or call 910-256-2323 for more information.