If I Had a Hammer

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Steve Holman ’78 hones a classic craft in a virtual world.

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by John Syme

Steve Holman ’78 set out from southern New Jersey to Davidson, N.C., as a freshman, expecting to play some good tennis, study in a manner “not too academically taxing,” major in economics, go to business school, and then join the family car dealership. He was right about the tennis, but that’s all. He was voted most valuable player and captained the team his junior year. But he also found he needed, and wanted, to study harder than he had planned to, and not in economics.

“An English class pulled the blinders off,” he recalls of his attraction to the wide world of ideas in literature and beyond.

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“Building things just seemed real to me. Maybe it was a
kind of reaction against the hyper-intellectualized life,”
he muses. “And it was kind of a hippie thing to do.”

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The wide world of terra firma called him, too. During summers and a post-graduate period of wanderlust, Holman built self-help housing with the American Friends Service Committee in Florida, Colorado, and California; built boats on Cape Cod; and then knocked on 50 doors of furniture makers in Oakland, Calif., until one took him on.

“Building things just seemed real to me. Maybe it was a kind of reaction against the hyper-intellectualized life,” he muses. “And it was kind of a hippie thing to do.”

Three decades on, he’s sipping a microbrew on the porch of the home he designed, built, and furnished in Dorset, Vt. The winds of wanderlust landed him here in 1981 to open his own shop, with a little help from his friends and fueled in no small measure by what his mid-50s self now calls the “hubris of youth.” He married Georgine MacGarvey, a painter. They have two sons, Jeff and Brett. Maybe it’s the tactile nature of his work in the world of objects that makes him so clearly and presently at home here, in this house, in his barn-sized shop across the lawn, Georgine’s valley-view studio, a horse pasture and barn, all on acreage that was just woods until he arrived to furnish it.

“I like creating furniture because every day you know what you’ve done. It’s very concrete, in a world that’s increasingly virtual,” he says.

Holman’s kept his Davidson connections real, too. His first original piece was an armoire for Peyton Marshall ’78. Roger Brown ’78 helped with a “barn-raising” in 1984. Holman has made desks for the kids of Mike McGrady ’80, another piece for Bruce Holliday ’78. The list goes on.

“That’s one of the real pleasures of making this stuff for people you like,” Holman says. “You get to know what happens to it.”

Read morehttp://daybook.davidson.edu/?s=Holman&x=0&y=0&=Go

http://holmanstudios.com/

Photo: John Syme

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