Roger Buchanan founded Landenberg Pottery in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, in 1974 and Strawberry River Woodworking in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 1993. He holds a BA and a PhD in cell biology from the University of Delaware. He set up shop in Quitman, Arkansas, in 2013. After a career in medical research, he became devoted full time to woodworking in 2017.
My first real introduction to art came in my early twenties when I worked as an assistant to world-class ceramicist Victor Spinski. That was a fantastic experience, but after several years it was time to head out on my own, so I worked several years as a potter specializing in wood-firing and salt-glazing. We built our kiln next to a local sawmill, and I befriended the sawyer who had operated the mill for over forty years. I soon became a wood fanatic. I’ve been frequenting sawmills ever since, looking for gorgeous examples of native woods to use in building furniture. I started in the early 1980s using the few hand tools I could acquire. When our family moved to Jonesboro in 1990, we built a house on a beautifully wooded tract of land just north of town, where I set up a wood shop and began building furniture from timber selectively harvested from that land. I now have a well-equipped shop in Quitman but still frequent sawmills looking for great wood.
I began building wood boxes after a severe ice storm destroyed hundreds of trees on our property in Jonesboro. As I was cleaning up the mess, I realized that some of the downed trees had been invaded by fungi and insects. This combination produced unique woods that were much too beautiful to burn, but were too small and twisted to be sawn into lumber at a mill. So I set out to turn them into lumber myself using the tools I had. After chain-sawing them into short lengths, I resawed the logs using a bandsaw and set the boards aside to dry. Drying stopped the decay process, resulting in usable lumber. However, the lumber, though beautiful, had lost much of its strength, so other native hardwoods including walnut, cherry, sycamore, peach, and maple were incorporated into the design of each box. I’ve always designed my own furniture, so each box is a unique combination of these woods, with the size, shape, and construction being dictated by the wood itself. These pieces are a testament to the destructive power of nature, and to the great natural beauty that, though it is often “accidental” and unseen, surrounds us. These boxes are made almost entirely of woods native to Arkansas, including walnut, cherry, maple, oak, sycamore, and ash.