Turning Wood into Treasure with Sergio Traverso
In the middle of San Francisco Bay, there is a treasure. A human-made masterpiece that has spent its life redefining itself as it battles to maintain its existence in a never-ending endurance match with Mother Nature. We are talking about Treasure Island.
The artificial landmass has hosted world fairs, a naval base, music festivals, and is home to a handful of wineries; it was integral to the making of both The Matrix and Patch Adams, not to mention Mythbusters. An often forgotten resource just offshore San Francisco's Embarcadero, Treasure Island is at the outset of yet another chapter in its history as it experiences a monumental civic undertaking of waste remediation and redevelopment that plans to bring new housing to the island.
In the middle of the somewhat barren landscape, a community of makers has found a perfect location to set up shop. Away from the bustle of San Francisco, we spent a morning with our friend and woodworker Sergio Traverso. Both skilled and humble, Sergio has a calmness with a matter-of-fact hustle that is most easily described as encouraging. As part of a founding group that has nurtured "craft" by bringing West Coast Craft to life for the past five years, he has created a near-perfect balance between running his own business and as the Production Director for WCC.
Woodworking. Tell me a bit about how you got your start in woodworking? How long have you been at it?
I've been working professionally as a woodworker for 5-6 years now. I went to school for product design and development which is where I was able to hone my skills, but it wasn't until after I graduated that I started to get my hands dirty, and I mean literally. I worked to salvage building materials after finishing school, and I found so much inspiration in all the raw and repurposed materials that I couldn't help but build things. After working in salvage, I briefly took a job as a wood shop lead at local San Francisco furniture company, and there I realized that it was something I wanted to pursue independently.
What types of projects are you currently working on? What does a day in the shop look like on any given day?
I work on a lot custom retail design/builds, which is the bread and butter of Four Quarter. Since my shop is on Treasure Island, my day usually starts off running around getting materials and making sure I have everything I need before I get to the shop. Once I get to the shop, I typically spend a decent amount of time answering emails and getting all my computer work out of the way before I start the woodworking.
On top of the hours spent with sawdust, glue, clamps, blades, and sandpaper, you also work with West Coast Craft, right? Tell me about what that is and what you're working on for them?
I co-founded WCC with Paulina Nassar and Nick Sarno back in 2013. It's a curated show of artist and designer craftspeople working in all types of mediums. My role in the company is Production Director, but since we're a relatively small team, we all find ourselves sharing responsibilities and wearing different hats as they say.
After seven years of seeing the craft community come together, I'm sure you've seen a progression in all thing craft. Have you noticed any major shifts or movement in what people are making?
I think when WCC started there was resurgence happening in traditional craft and materials (wood, leather, ceramics, metal, etc.). Today I would say it’s more about innovation, like using those same materials but out of the normal context or even discovering and using new materials.
Let's talk about your craft. What types of projects are you most excited to take on? Are you making any of your own furniture or is everything commissioned designs?
Four Quarter also has a small line of furniture that we produce and sell. Those are honestly my favorite things to build, tables and chairs. Eventually, I would like those designs to be the main focus of the company and for custom commissions to be a smaller portion. While I do love taking on large custom projects, they can be exhausting and make it difficult for me to take the time I need to come up with new furniture design for Four Quarter.
If you have the time and resources what would your dream project look like?
I would love to design and build my own home. Inside and out. Every detail.
...there is a great community of other builders and craftspeople for
that exact reason.
Your shop is on Treasure Island. How did you pick that spot?
I was reluctant to come out to Treasure Island initially, just because I hate driving in the city. But as it turns out traffic isn't so bad in the mornings. The main reason I arrived at this location was the cost. It is much cheaper than the SF mainland, and there is a great community of other builders and craftspeople for that exact reason. Treasure Island is an amazing place with so much history that few locals even realize. I love it here, it's quiet, mellow and the views are beautiful.
Where can we find your work? If somebody needs an amazing piece or furniture how can they see your work?
Check out the website or Instagram, www.fourqtr.com or @four_quarter. There isn't a whole lot of information in either place right now, because I'm terrible with social media, but folks can feel free to email me with any questions or requests they might have.