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Wendell Castle

Wendell Castle

Born: Emporia, Kansas, U.S.

Wendell Castle is part of the Living Legacy Project at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Click here to listen to his artist interview.



Wendell Castle was an internationally acclaimed sculptor, furniture maker, designer, woodworker, and teacher who was born in Emporia, Kansas and was based in Western New York for most of his adult life. He has been called the father of the American studio furniture movement.

Castle received a BFA in Industrial Design as well as an MFA in sculpture from the University of Kansas by 1961.While there, he worked primarily with the university's bronze casting facility while also learning about carving, stoneworking, and welding. Upon graduation he moved to New York City to become a professional artist (he had not yet turned his attention to furniture), but found life there a struggle.

A year later, he was invited by the dean of  the Rochester Institute of Technology to join the furniture design department of the university’s School for American Craftsmen. He remained there until 1969, when he accepted a position at SUNY Brockport. Castle eventually returned  to RIT, where he was an artist in residence since 1984.

He also founded the Wendell Castle School in 1980, a two-year school which attracts many students both in the U.S. and abroad who are interested in the high level of design education that Castle can provide. In both of these pursuits, Castle was able to fuse his personal passions for design and technique with those of his students and other artists in the Western New York region.

Castle is recognized as both a higly regarded craftsman and as one of the most significant American artists of his generation. His designs are both accessible in their clearly organic shapes and challenging in the trompe l’oeil carving techniques he incorporates.

He exhibited in solo shows for decades throughout the country including at the Smithsonian Institution, the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, N.Y., and many New York City galleries. Castle was featured internationally in group exhibitions, including shows in London and Switzerland.

He was married to ceramics artist Nancy Jurs, and their two children are both artists of note: Alison Castle is a photographer and text-based artist, while Byron Jurs is a  painter.

The Burchfield Penney Art Center recognized Castle as a Living Legacy artist in 2013, and he is part of the 2015 class.

For more information on Wendell Castle's work, visit his website at


Wendell Castle's Adopoted Rules of Thumb:
1. Distrust what comes easily.
2. You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
3. Bring conflicting attitudes to bear on the same problem.
4. We should never know for whom you’re designing.
5. Always listen to the voice of eccentricity.
6. The whole secret to designing a chair is applying the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.
7. The problem with taking life in your own hands is you have no one else to blame.
8. If your mind is not baffled, your mind is not fully employed.
9. Imagination, not reason, creates what is novel.
10. Jumping to conclusions is not exercise.
11. Keep knocking – eventually someone will look down to see who’s there.

The Original 10 Adopted Rules of Thumb
1. If you are in love with an idea, you are no judge of its beauty or value.
2. It is difficult to see the whole picture when you are inside the frame.
3. After learning the tricks of the trade, don’t think you know the trade.
4. We hear and apprehend what we already know.
5. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.
6. Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms it was brought to you.
7. If it’s offbeat or surprising it’s probably useful.
8. If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it.
9. Don’t get too serious.
10. If you hit the bull’s-eye every time, the target is too near.