In downtown Grand Rapids, Cameron Van Dyke ex'89 welcomes passersby into his home and offers to sell them his furniture. All of it—from the casual chairs to the dining table to the platform bed of African mahogany—is for sale.
Van Dyke's home, shared with his wife, Rachael, is a storefront on the Avenue of the Arts that doubles as his showroom and gallery, Capsule-Living Studio. He's finely crafted furniture of wood, steel and fiberglass, designs that are often witty and playful. The “Fizz Table,” for example—which might also function as a bench—has holes of various sizes cut in its mahogany top that cast changing patterns of light on the floor beneath.
Creating forms that are at once “functional, durable, beautiful and joy-filled,” Van Dyke said, is his aim in everything he builds.
This includes kitchen cabinets. For his bread-and-butter income, Van Dyke relies on his skill as a master cabinetmaker. Over the past 14 years he has established himself as a respected, sought-after designer and renovator of kitchens in historic homes. In each kitchen, Van Dyke labors to respect the architectural style of the house, using the highest quality materials and finish.
“I think about building grace into furniture and cabinets,” Van Dyke said. “When I've designed and made a piece well, I can bless someone each time it's used.”
“The physicality of things” has attracted him as long as he can remember, Van Dyke said. “My parents gave us kids the garage to build things. We had motorbikes and go-carts and engines hooked up to all kinds of crazy stuff. Their ability to tolerate the mess and junk in order to let us play and explore materials was really important.”
At Calvin, Van Dyke signed up for the major most likely to keep him building things. But engineering was too theoretical for him. “I wanted something more hands on,” he said. He found just that at Rochester Institute of Technology's “incredibly intense program in furniture design. I really thrived there.”
With an established reputation for fine craftsmanship in commissioned furniture and cabinets and national exhibits of his art furniture, Van Dyke has now begun to design and build public art. The cities of Grand Rapids, Mich., Aurora, Colo., and Coral Springs, Fla., have installed his sculptural seating. San Diego, Calif., has sponsored a temporary installation of his 15-foot fiberglass sculpture, “Monocot,” on its waterfront. He's now looking for a public buyer for his latest sculptural seating piece, “Wave.”
“I've become interested in public art because I want everybody to be able to enjoy beautiful and interesting objects,” Van Dyke said. “I also like the challenge of making work that means something to a particular place and a particular people.”
Whatever he's building, Van Dyke sees his work as a way of acting out an attribute of God. “I think that creativity was one of the attributes of God darkened by the Fall. I get to be someone who points to that attribute and shows it to others, even inspires others. Artists I know call it ‘restoring creativity.'”
To see more of Cameron Van Dyke's work, visit http://cameronvandyke.com.
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