Producer: Karen Smyles
From a warehouse studio in East Falls, Peter Handler works away creating vibrant furniture pieces of aluminum and wood. Color plays a role in much of his work but the most important elements are structure and design. Handler wants people to appreciate the formal qualities of his work, but describes it as cutting the knife edge between formality and whimsy.
Handler’s career began as a jewelry maker after graduating from college with a degree in political science. He was thrown into the jewelry business when a friend asked him to watch his shop while he was on vacation for a week. Handler was bitten, purchased some books, tools, silvers and stones and started teaching himself to make jewelry. The jewelry pieces became bigger and more complex, eventually leading him to discover using machine tool equipment and working with aluminum.
Almost everything he makes is commissioned and just about anything you can think of, he has probably made. Handler says, “My starting point when I’m meeting with a client, the first thing I ask them to do is show me around their homes. I want to get a feel for their sense of style, design.” This is immediately apparent when you survey work he’s done over the years. You’ll often see the same piece in an ultra modern setting, and then one more conservative, and yet it works well in both.
When not making furniture, Handler spends most of his time working on issues dealing with climate change. According to Handler, “There are a lot of important issues in the world to deal with, but if we don’t deal with climate change, the others ultimately don’t matter.” For the last 8 years he has been working on a series of artworks titled Canaries in the Coal Mine. The works are intended to draw attention to various aspects of climate change. He also works with the Philadelphia chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, is a principal for Honoring the Future and part of Interfaith Power and Light, organizations that work on issues surrounding climate change.
Friday Arts tours Peter Handler’s spacious studio to talk about all of the above and watch him hard at work on an array of powerful machines. You may end up wondering if his work is art or craft, which doesn’t concern Handler. He just wants you to love the pieces. We do!