Madison, Wisconsin


Tom Loeser was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1956. Loeser served as Chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Art from 2009-2014 and was head of the wood/furniture area at UW-Madison from 1991-2020. He holds a BA from Haverford College (1979), a BFA from Boston University’s Program in Artisanry (1983) and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (1992).

Loeser designs and builds one-of-a-kind functional and dysfunctional objects that are often carved and painted and always draw inspiration from the history of design and object making. In 1993, he spent six months in Japan on an NEA Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship. In 2003 and again in 2017, he spent six months teaching and researching in London. In addition to producing studio furniture, Loeser has also worked on a number of public commissions and site-specific installations. He collaborated with his wife, Bird Ross, on the design and fabrication of the highly kid-friendly, very interactive, and not at all traditional reception desk for the new Madison Children’s Museum. In 2013, Loeser worked with willow furniture maker Dave Chapman and built three large willow and steel pod forms that are permanently installed reading retreats in the children’s section of the new downtown public library in Madison, Wisconsin.

His work has been featured in national and international exhibitions and can be found in museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum; Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC; Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, and many other institutions. Loeser’s recent solo exhibition “Please Please Please” originated at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco and then traveled to three additional venues in San Diego, Houston and Philadelphia. He was elected to the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 2012.


Artist Statement

This piece is part of a series made using found tool parts. I got started on this investigation back in 1991 when I moved to Madison and noticed that at the end of the long winter, when spring finally took hold, people seemed to relish throwing out their old shovels. I began pulling them out of garbage cans before the trash trucks showed up. Back then, many of the handles were wood and metal and beautifully shaped. I’ve gathered hundreds over the years and because my early designs focused on the handle-end of the implement, for a long time I did not have a good solution for using the “business” end of the shovels. This design puts the shovels back in contact with the ground, where they belong.

New Favorite, 2022, Honey locust and repurposed tool parts, 37x71.5x21 in., Courtesy of the artist