Claire Weisz Shares the Story Behind Her Most-Prized Objet d’Art

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By Claire Weisz
The New York architect, who has retooled everything from parks to food-processing plants, explains the origin story of the unusual wood tablet she keeps in her office.

On a trip to San Antonio to meet clients a few years ago, my partner, Mark Yoes, and I stopped by an art supply house to pick up a pair of scales. As we were browsing, we caught a glimpse of a backroom full of plaster models and other bric-a-brac. Intrigued, we struck up a conversation with the owner and found out we shared an appreciation for legendary local architect O’Neil Ford, who with his younger brother, Lynn Ford, a master builder, mixed vernacular roots and architectural modernism in Texas in the mid 20th century.

At WXY’s office, principal Claire Weisz keeps a carving sample board (like a fabric sample  chart for woodworkers) that belonged to master craftsman Lynn Ford.

At WXY’s office, principal Claire Weisz keeps a carving sample board (like a fabric sample chart for woodworkers) that belonged to master craftsman Lynn Ford.

At this point, the owner volunteered to show us something unusual. From the backroom, he produced a two-by-one-foot wood tablet, its face engraved with diagonal, chamfered, corrugated, and rounded carvings. He told us he bought it at Lynn Ford’s estate sale. It was his personal sample board—basically a 3D reference chart used by woodcarvers to create new patterns. It must have been at least 50 years old. 

The shop owner was willing to part with the board—for a cost of about $100—and we’ve had it in our office in New York ever since. Each pattern represents a different technique, showing how much you can do in less than an inch. Seeing a limited set of choices laid out, and knowing that repeating these designs made them into something new, is endlessly fascinating.