Made by the Lake: Woodworking by Regional Artists

Neil Donovan, Karen Ernst, Fredy Huaman Mallqui, Bryan Geary, Brian Millspaw, Todd Steffy, Brad Triana, and Ryan Zimmerman

Exhibition Dates: 01/014/2022 – 03/13/2022

Location: Hagan Gallery

This exhibition of fine wood art, the first to ever show at the Erie Art Museum, presents an in-depth exploration into the craftsmanship of woodworking artists from, or currently based in the Erie area. For decades, the growing community of wood working artists has continued to flourish in the region. Their technical execution exemplifies the versatility of a local, natural resource that is deeply intertwined with society. Their influences range from travel and nature to mentors from local universities and internationally recognized artists abroad. From utilitarian forms used in daily living to narrative objects that tell a story, these works show the strength and intricacy that can be achieved with wood as its central medium.

Artist Statements & Bios

Neil Donovan

Artist Statement

I have memories from very early childhood of looking at my father’s tools and the scraps of wood he stored in the basement; I remember yearning to make something, anything.  I have been privileged to be a maker for over 50 years now.  

I won’t attempt to talk about my intent as an maker, but my odd way of designing and executing is as follows:

I don’t draw my sculptures and then execute the physical piece.  I start with an idea, begin the work and then let the piece lead me to completion, designing and making changes as I go. This is often inefficient with frequent missteps.  But with this process, the joy of creating runs through the entire execution of the piece. The missteps are misery, but when the process is working, it is nothing short of exhilarating.

Fredy Huaman Mallqui

Artist Statement

I make my living independently working with my hands and mind. I love what I do, and I am proud of my work. I work at my home/studio and from the heart. The art is a kinetic energy of life that is inextricably tied to my everyday experience, it runs through the veins of the tree that become the wood, through my hands that reach for my chisels. Through the act of carving in wood, I am rooted in work that unifies, transmitting a sense of place through the (re)creation and transformation of universal experiences.


Fredy moved to the United States from Ayacucho, Peru in Spring 2012 carrying his wood carving tools that served as extensions of his own hands and his design philosophy. Fredy also brought with him the most precious tools: sensibility, creativity, skills, and expertise that he has accumulated since he started his woodcarving profession at the age of nine. His carving pieces are not just merely decorative pieces, they are intricate pieces of art, exquisitely detailed and of the highest quality of craftsmanship. Fredy’s work demonstrates his learning throughout the years from several master carvers, as well as the development and mastery of his own techniques of designing and hand carving unique pieces of art. Trained by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture in the conservation of diverse objects of art, Fredy worked conserving historical art pieces, dating from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in Peru.

His public works include a mixed media project “We the People,” located on a formerly abandoned lot on 4th and Cherry Streets in Erie, PA. Sponsored by Erie Arts and Culture and Our West Bayfront, he teamed with a printmaker to engage with local residents in situ reclaiming and creating a safe and welcoming outdoor gathering space for families.

Brad Triana


Brad Triana is a woodworker and furniture maker in Erie, PA. His home base and fabrication shop is located in a former bronze foundry in Little Italy. Through his work at BOTH Studios, Brad spends most of his time designing and fabricating custom tables for both residential and commercial needs.

Karen Ernst

Artist Statement

Traveling to new places and spending time outdoors have always been very important to me. As a young adult, discovering the National Parks, particularly those in the American West, gave me a new perspective on where I fit in the universe and on the artwork I wanted to create. Viewing the immense scale and evidence of the passage of time in places like Arches National Park in Utah, Olympic National Park in Washington, or the Grand Canyon really felt like a spiritual experience. In addition to the huge scenic vistas, little details like the symmetry of a succulent plant, the texture of sand in a tide pool, or a fossilized brachiopod, seem to stick with me and, not surprisingly, find their way into the furniture and sculptural objects that I make. Whether it is the shape of a leaf or petal, the profile and texture of a canyon or mountain, or a fluffy cloud, I am intrigued by the beauty and level of detail present in our natural surroundings.


Originally from East Aurora, NY, Karen Ernst received a B.A. in Studio Art from SUNY Geneseo, and her MFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. During and after her academic studies, she was an employee of Spykman Design in Keene, NH, makers of custom cabinetry and furniture. In 2003-04 she participated in a residency program and was a summer workshop assistant at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, CO. She is a Professor in the Art Department at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where she has been teaching woodworking and furniture design since 2004. She is also currently serving as the Vice President of the Board of Trustees of The Furniture Society.

Brian Millspaw


Westfield, NY
Full time professional woodworker since 1995.
I create organic looking solid wood furniture with traditional techniques and turned wood sculpture.

Ryan Zimmerman

Artist Statement

Artifacts of industry are left scattered throughout the American Rust Belt. A region built and reliant upon manufacturing, destined to fail when companies found themselves in jeopardy. Jobs came and went, businesses folded. What remains in their place are vacant factories, warehouses, and the workforce itself.

This area of the country is where my life began and where I have found myself once again. Growing up in a family that was a part of this cycle of ups and downs, I have a certain familiarity and fondness for this post-industrial landscape and its inherent struggles.

Hit the Lights on Your Way Out is an examination of the volatile relationship between a region and the industry that supports it. The objects in this body of work investigate aspects of ritual, loyalty, and value and the speed at which those things begin to lose meaning.


Ryan Zimmerman is an artist from Erie, Pennsylvania – making objects primarily with wood while also employing clay, fiber, and paper within his practice. He received a BFA in Furniture Design from Edinboro University in 2017 with a concentration in Wood/Furniture Design and minors in printmaking and sculpture. Leaving undergrad, he completed an internship at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in their furniture program.

Ryan has held a Student Representative position on the Furniture Society’s Board of Trustees for the past two years. This position involves student outreach to universities and other organizations and offers opportunities and content to those within the woodworking/furniture community.

This past spring, Ryan completed his MFA at the Rochester Institute of Technology and has since relocated to Colorado, working as the Studio Coordinator at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in the wood/furniture design studio.

Bryan Geary


Bryan Geary trained in both traditional and modern woodworking techniques. He holds both a BFA and an MFA with his concentration being in woodworking and furniture design. His portfolio included fine furniture, sculpture, and conceptual pieces.

After graduate school Bryan traveled to Japan to study under Master Tak Yoshino. As his apprentice, he trained in the techniques of sandless woodworking using traditional Japanese block planes. In 2015 Bryan co-founded the Mt. Fuji School of Fine Woodworking with Tak.

Bryan currently resides in Erie Pennsylvania where he makes and teaches in his woodworking studio.

Todd Steffy

Artist Statement

My work seeks to create an intimate space within the landscape of our daily lives by re-contextualizing common elements of the past. I explore woven handmade fish traps found throughout human history as an inspiration to analyze form and function through designing and fabricating sculptural furniture. Formal elements of my work center on the creation of fluid, biomorphic volumes defined by curvilinear planes and lines. Wood and steel serve as primary materials with which I lead the viewer’s eye through each piece. Lashings bend and bind linear wooden members over welded steel frameworks, creating a hierarchy of structure, and a network of both architectural and visual information. Each piece is an investigation of design and architecture experienced tactilely at the human scale. Furniture exists parallel to the human form in service to our bodies, and our relationships to the objects and to the space around us. I see my own work as an artifact of my culture, a critical reflection of a shared connection to human history within the context of contemporary furniture design.


Todd Livingston Steffy is a lifelong artist, craftsman, and designer from Erie PA. He received his BFA From Edinboro University, and MFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, concentrating in woodworking, furniture, and design.