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2006 Award of Distinction Recipient

Artist, Crafts­man

Mr. Simp­son’s award was presented June 9, 2006 by Robert Eager­ton — painter, print­maker, and Profes­sor at the Herron School of Art IUPUI.


Pioneer, poet of furni­ture, crafts­man, genuis. For over 30 years, Tommy Simpson has blazed his own trail in the studio furni­ture field. His highly person­al­ized style, a mixture of sculp­ture, paint­ing, and surface design, is firmly rooted in his extra­or­di­nary skill as a furni­ture maker. Drawing on child­hood memo­ries formed in an idyllic Midwest­ern home and neigh­bor­hood popu­lated with gener­a­tions of doting rela­tives, Simp­son’s work reflects the imag­in­ings and joys of a young boy living care­free in the 1940s and 50s. With a propen­sity for shaking things up and punch­ing energy into estab­lished furni­ture beliefs, Tommy creates his own blend of excite­ment that inspires both estab­lished and up-and-coming makers.

Simpson received an MFA from Cran­brook Academy of Art in Michi­gan in 1964 and had his first exhi­bi­tion in New York City that same year. Through his partic­i­pa­tion in hundreds of exhi­bi­tions, author­ing books and arti­cles, teach­ing and lectur­ing across the world, and having his worked placed in promi­nent collec­tions, Simp­son’s contri­bu­tions to studio furni­ture is immea­sur­able. The Furni­ture Society is pleased to present the 2006 Award of Distinc­tion to Tommy Simpson.

Tommy Simpson was born 1939 in Elgin, Illinois


1964 MFA in Painting

Cran­brook Academy of Art, Bloom­field Hills, Michigan


1997 Fellow Award, Amer­i­can Craft Council, College of Fellows, New York, NY

1994 Master Crafts­man Award, Society of Connecticut Crafts

Authored Books

2001 Stone Flowers, IUPUI, Herron Art School, Indi­anapo­lis, IN

1999 Two Looks to Home, Bulfinch Press, Boston, Massachusetts

1967 Fantasy Furni­ture, Rein­hold Publish­ing, New York, NY


2000 Garden of the Heart, Museum of Art & Design, New York, NY

1981 The Amer­i­can Room, Amer­i­can Craft Museum, New York, NY

Solo Exhibitions

2004 Mile­stones, Leo Kaplan Modern, NYC Shows: 40 Year Cele­bra­tion, New York, NY

1994 Out of the Woods, Clark Gallery, Lincoln, Massachusetts

1982 Room Instal­la­tion, Amer­i­can Craft Museum, New York, NY

1973 Fantasy Furni­ture, Peter­son Gallery, Nantucket, Massachusetts

Selected Group Exhibitions

2005 Under Cover: Uphol­stery, Gallery NAGA, Boston, MA

2004 Right at Home: Amer­i­can Studio Furni­ture, Renwick Gallery, MAA, Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion, Wash­ing­ton, DC 

2003 The Maker’s Hand, Studio Furni­ture from 1940 – 1990, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

1995 Break­ing Barri­ers: Recent Amer­i­can Craft, trav­el­ing exhi­bi­tion orga­nized by the Amer­i­can Craft Museum

1989 New Amer­i­can Furni­ture: The Second Gener­a­tion of Studio Furni­ture Makers, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

1989 – 93 Craft Today USA: Poetry of the Phys­i­cal, inter­na­tion­ally traveling museum

1987 Eloquent Object, Philbrook Museum of Art (trav­el­ing exhibition)

1972 – 74 Objects USA, Amer­i­can Craft Museum (trav­el­ing exhibition)

Public Collections & Commissions

Hirschorn Collec­tion, Wash­ing­ton, DC

Amer­i­can Craft Museum, New York, NY

Renwick Gallery, NMAA, Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion, Wash­ing­ton, DC

Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hart­ford, Connecticut

Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin

Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas