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Ben Forgey

Ben Forgey at the Lizard Rodeo Lounge in the Range Café afront two of his many creations: a wire mesh-and-barbed wire chandelier and driftwood-framed mirror.

New work by Forgey

New work by Forgey

The product of balance


You would want your furniture made by a man just like this: solid as a firefighter, earthy in speech, yet thoughtful at times for the space of eternity, just long enough to await the arrival of the right word.

His furniture defies labels, except that it is as earthy and ethereal as the man himself. Self-taught woodworker Ben Forgey, forty-one, started making furniture for his house after moving out west from Virginia, carrying only what would fit on his motorcycle.

That was in 1990. He owned a drill, a hammer, and a saw. He had no background in art or woodworking except “I guess I had a natural tree house-building temperament,” he shrugs. Finding no work as an aspiring writer, Forgey busied himself making a side table, a couch, and finally a chair out of twisted sticks he found in the arroyo near his home in Algodones.

Fast-forward a few years, to 1995. It isn’t clear how this happened, because Forgey is one of those rare artists whose work appears like magic, out of nowhere. After taking a few woodworking classes in Corrales, he approached the owners of The Range Café in Bernalillo, offering to make them new chairs for just $40 apiece.

“At some point I figured, if I can make $8 an hour doing this, shoot, I’m working for myself,” he said. “In some ways it was like, this is just twig furniture (I’m making), I wanted to do real wood joinery. But it was also an opportunity to fill a public room with my design.”

Three months later, he had indeed filled the room with chairs—only to see half of them burn up in a fire that gutted The Range a month later.

By this time, Forgey admits, he had bought woodshop tools. So he set about making The Range one hundred chairs for the current location on Camino del Pueblo—the ones that are still in the restaurant and the adjoining Lizard Lounge today. The project took him all of three months.

“The Range [was created by] these two Midwestern guys who came out here and made homemade food, so I thought, we’re going to make homemade chairs. They’re not really hippies; their sensibility is kind of fun and homey and left of center. So I designed these chairs that are kind of hippie New Mexican.”

Don’t let Forgey’s homespun manner fool you. He began the project by researching the history of New Mexican furniture making, from Spanish Colonial through the WPA—he was a history major in college. His father wrote architecture criticism for the Washington Post; his mother was an artist. “They were intellectuals, I guess, and artists,” he concedes. “So I didn’t fall too far from the tree.”

Oh, and the reason Forgey was able to make chairs for $40 apiece, incidentally, was that he had checks pouring in for thousands of dollars through the Sundance Catalog, where he had sold one of his chair designs. He had met a representative a few years back at a craft fair in Tucson, and they put Forgey’s upholstered Adirondack-style twig chair on the front page. Forgey went ahead and made thirty-five chairs, which he had stacked on his porch.

“I’d come home and my fax machine would have all these orders, and I’d box them up.” He ended up selling a total of forty-five chairs, at $1,000 apiece, of which he kept half.

“I probably spent a couple of months making those chairs,” he says. “I can’t vouch for how good they were.”

In fact, Forgey won’t vouch for how good he must be, given what comes naturally. When a friend invited him to Italy in 1995, he looked up the owner of a company that had once sold fifty of his chairs. Suddenly he was swept up in the fashion world of Milan, and spent a year in Italy making furniture at the invitation of a furniture-maker in Florence.

His chairs, too, belie the art that goes into them. Anyone who has worked with twisted, fallen branches knows how devilishly difficult they can be to engineer well. Forgey’s homespun Mexican-style chairs have the natural look of painted, sanded, and repainted castoffs, but one glance at his more abstract, sculptural pieces demonstrates the nuances that go into this faux-finish technique.

Currently he is incorporating Plexiglas and galvanized steel, pairing incongruous materials in ways that go beyond rustic Adirondack style to something almost modern—but not entirely. There is always a natural touch to Forgey’s work that makes the artfulness appear “just so,” the solid evidence of a magical sensibility that is more innate than learned.

Forgey traces his art odyssey to a moment on the beach in Mexico not long after he moved out west. “I was looking out on the waves and the sun was going down, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m a furniture maker.’ It just filled me with this warmth: I could be happy saying that I make furniture.

“Then after I got back (to Albuquerque) I thought, I’ll give this ten years and see what happens.”

In a seventeen-year career crafted out of just such moments, Forgey arrives at saying only that it came naturally.

“I might have become a writer. But when I started building, boy, it felt natural. My hands, I was much more comfortable with than my mind.”

His hands, as an expression of the mind that senses when to step aside and wait, echo the primordial moment when a man first picks up a branch to build. You would want your furniture to turn out like this—the product of an effortless balance between intellect and instinct, engineered and found, nature and art.

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

A call to Placitas artists: Placitas Studio Tour

The eleventh annual Placitas Studio Tour will take place on Mother’s Day Weekend, May 10 and 11. Only artists and artisans living or working in Placitas are eligible to participate. Application forms and information will be available at or at the Merc beginning on February 1, with a firm deadline for application of February 14. Artists are urged to jump on this opportunity during the two-week window.

The free, self-guided tour runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. both days. Most artists offer refreshments; some give demonstrations or have works-in-progress. For the exhibitors, it offers exposure to new and repeat collectors, as well as a chance to meet and exchange ideas and inspiration with other artists in the community. For visitors, it’s a rare opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creative process and the many variations of the workspaces that artists call “studios.”

For more information, visit their website or call Riha Rothberg, tour coordinator, at 771-1006.

Wendy Day to present all-Chopin recital

Wendy Day, an accomplished classical pianist and Placitas resident, will present an all-Chopin recital at Keller Hall on the UNM campus on January 27 at 3:00 p.m. The public is welcome. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children and seniors.

Willy Sucre

Willy Sucre

PAS Concert: Willy and Friends play Clarinet Quintets


On Sunday, January 27, 2008, Willy Sucre and Friends will perform a program of clarinet quintets. Violist Willy Sucre will be joined by violinists Krzysztof Zimowski and Steve Ognacevic, cellist Dana Winograd, and clarinetist James Shields. The program scheduled is the Clarinet Quintet in A Major K. 581 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op 115 by Johannes Brahms.

This concert is a very special presentation by the Placitas Artists Series because it features the rich and sweet sound of the clarinet with the outstanding string musicians assembled for the occasion by Willy Sucre. It’s a ‘don’t miss’ event in Placitas.

The concert is generously sponsored by Sally and Jack Curro.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for January exhibiting visual artists Carol Carpenter, Carmine DeVivi, Karl and Mary Hofmann, and Nancy Kriebel.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on January 27 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the artists’ reception begins at 1:30 p.m. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the concert, or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas or online at Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.

This project is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The facility is completely accessible, and free child care is provided for families with children under six. Las Placitas Presbyterian Church is located six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). For more information, call 867-8080.

Bob and Bobbie Creeley

Bob and Bobbie Creeley, kids, visiting poet Ron Bayes, and Larry Goodell in 1963, in front of the Creeley house, across the street from the Randall’s house, in the village of Placitas.

Duende Poetry Series presents the literary heritage of Placitas


This annual Duende & Friends reading honors Placitas’s literary heritage on Sunday, January 20 at 3:00 p.m. at Anasazi Fields Winery of Placitas. We’ll have tributes to Robert Creeley and Ed Dorn, as well as some other poets who have lived in our village. This is our twelfth reading and it begins our fourth year. You couldn’t have more local flavor than we’ll serve up at this event. We’ll have extraordinary poetry, wine, snacks, fellowship, fantastic conversation, and books and CDs available for purchase, thanks to La Alameda Press and Vox Audio. You are all warmly invited.

First off, Larry Goodell—that’s me. I’ll present a performance of poems insouciant and witty, ribald, satiric and peaceful, all written during my almost life-long residence in Placitas. I’ll give you a memento of writers and poets who have lived in and enjoyed our beautiful area.

Jeff Bryan and surprise guests will present poems from For Love, celebrating the work of Robert Creeley, who lived in Placitas in the sixties and seventies. The Thunderbird Orkestra just might make music to Creeley lyrics. Watch out, the energy is building.

Finally, Gary Brower presents a tribute to the poet Ed Dorn. John Macker will visit us and present his appreciation of Dorn, and Todd Moore will present his own poem and tribute to the “Gunslinger” poet.

After the performances—fellowship! Anasazi Fields wines will be available for tasting and purchasing. Besides the wine bar, there will be tasty snacks and non-alcoholic drinks available. This event is free to the public, but we encourage donations so we can pay the participants.

The Duende Poetry Series puts on quarterly poetry readings of note for the benefit of the community of Placitas and others and we have recently received a grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation. For information, contact Jim Fish at 867-3062 or online at, Cirrelda Snider-Bryan at 897-0285 or online at, or check out the Anasazi Fields website at The next reading in the series will be on Sunday, March 16, featuring the great Acoma poet Simon Ortiz.

To get to the Winery, turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos across from the Presbyterian Church and follow the road to the Winery. For those outside Placitas, take I-25 to the Placitas exit 242, drive six miles east to the Village, turn left at the sign just before the Presbyterian Church, and follow Camino de los Pueblitos through two stop signs to the Winery entrance.

To Paradise

In paradise, once you’ve been there, you want

to stay there.

And the light promises slow ascension and decline

to flow with the movement that is so slow

it’s hard to detect any change. Light lights up

the instant, the instantaneous now, dissolving into

new species, an evolution of informed consent

where cross purposes congratulate each other

and the warmth of the sun on the side of my face

promises continuance of lust and love

as if you could ever escape the Earth of Earths

or who would want to: cast out in space.

Oh Mother of us all, and all our mothers,

the love you give gives me love back

for me to give away, and return to this place.


An experiential Schlesinger kitchen

An experiential Schlesinger kitchen

Color increases productivity.

Color increases productivity.

Schlesinger proposes creative, harmonically balanced (healing) space for architecture and interiors


The majority of people living in industrialized countries spend a high percentage of their time indoors. This same population is often stressed, burned out, and unhealthy. Living and working in artificially created, traditional, or poorly designed spaces with little presence of organic or natural materials and no direct connection to nature substantially contributes to the stress of modern life.

Thirty years of research, remodeling and project experiences led me to identify key elements that were missing in people’s lives (including my own) as a result of outmoded value systems and rubber stamping of buildings throughout the building industry. These missing elements contribute directly to daily stress and fatigue.

People are individuals, all with unique fingerprints. When individual needs are met, the collective result can be a much healthier society.

By identifying “unbalanced areas” or missing elements, corrections can be easily applied to any type of building. The first four elements are usually improvements done with custom lighting design, therapeutic paint colors, fresh air movement, and water features.

Additional steps may include remodeling within geometric or radiused shapes and ergonomic (human factor) layouts, embedded graphics, plants (oxygen supply), and noise reduction.

5D Environments is a combined method of architecture, engineering, and interior design: architecture based on weather and location, by creating micro climates and protection from our new weather patterns; engineering by mirroring nature with solar heating/cooling; landscaping with permaculture and gray water; interior design as interior recharging, all directed to providing high vibration of spatial and spiritual energies.

There are currently about twelve levels of change that can be incorporated into interiors and around fifteen levels for exterior applications. It’s all about life energy and personal balance, not just visual impact or property value. Some layers may be felt but not seen, yet are very effective. Individual steps can be done in phases over time. Spatial concepts are designed from the ground up for new construction.

5D Healing Environments is environmental design for removing stress, providing tranquility, and increasing personal energy that allows for subtle daily healing—naturally. This results in a healthier lifestyle and workplace. Benefits include holistic balance, re-charging (healing), and simple, uncluttered spaces. 5D Environments is experiential. Because its effects are subtle, you’ll notice the biggest change by being away from this energy.

Built-in stress management provides creative space with tangible health benefits where people feel more comfortable and productivity naturally increases. 5D Environments can be very useful for small businesses that are unable to afford health insurance or prefer an additional perk for their employees. Healing practitioners can increase their effectiveness when their environment is balanced and the patient also returns to a balanced, more natural environment.

Eco psychologists recommend that patients submerge themselves in nature to reduce stress and fatigue and to initiate the healing process. For the industrialized person, application of a few levels of 5D Environments has a similar effect as being in nature, and is especially helpful for convalescing patients or people stuck in an office or retail space all day.

Internet services today make it practical for people to access these services from small towns and remote areas, including off-grid homes where professional services and product availability are limited.

For further information, contact Terrence Schlesinger at (505) 349-5585 or visit



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