Woodworking Professor Mark Sfirri Carves Out Another Accolade

Sfirri earns Lifetime Achievement Award from the Collectors of Wood Art for his international contribution to the craft.

Professor Mark Sfirri, who has taught fine woodworking at Bucks County Community College for more than 30 years, has carved out yet another national accolade. The Collectors of Wood Art has named Sfirri the 2012 recipient of its CWA Lifetime Achievement Award.

The CWA said Sfirri was chosen for his creativity as an artist, his reputation as a teacher and developer of newer artists, his scholarship of wood artists, and the central role he has played in developing the field of wood art. The CWA also noted Sfirri’s recognition as a James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Educator in 2010.

Sfirri (pictured), whose own work ranges from functional furniture to nonfunctional sculpture, is highly regarded for his innovative teaching methods and his ability to motivate, inspire, and encourage his students. The New Hope resident has mastered the art of “off-center” turning, and has shared his design approach and methods with many around the U.S. and the world, conducting international seminars and writing articles for industry publications.  

His approach has played an important role in public recognition of the evolution of studio wood turning into a contemporary art form. Sfirri’s work is in many private and public collections, including the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pa., and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

On the international stage, Sfirri has led collective art conferences such as “Emma Lake,” which this year attracted more than 100 artists to Saskatchewan, Canada.  Locally, he is one of the original organizers of a yearly conference inspired by Emma Lake, titled “Echo Lake,” a collaboration with the college now in its fourteenth year. Taking place at the Bucks campus, “Echo Lake” includes faculty, staff, students, area artists, and international artists as well, many of whom Sfirri has met in his travels and brought to Newtown.     

But despite his international renown, Sfirri remains devoted to nurturing aspiring artists in his studio classrooms.

“I love teaching.  There is nothing more satisfying than seeing my students develop creatively and technically during their stay at Bucks,” said Sfirri. “When I have students who show drive and commitment, I do whatever I can to fuel them during their time at the college, and for years and sometimes decades beyond. I have kept in touch with many graduates to help them as they pursue additional schooling and other opportunities in the field.”

In addition to his two national awards, Sfirri has received two major grants, each over $100,000, in support of the Fine Woodworking program at Bucks.

“In all, with these grants and other gifts to our program, about one-quarter of a million dollars has been donated to benefit our facilities and our students, at no cost to taxpayers,” noted Sfirri. “Seventy-five thousand dollars of the second grant has been put into an endowment fund, dedicated to student awards.” 

Sfirri credits his high school art teacher – Claude Falcone at Penncrest High School in Lima, Pa. – with instilling in him the work ethic and critical thinking skills he needed to get accepted in to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s of fine arts degrees.

In the spring semester that starts January 23, Sfirri will teach Fine Woodworking Fundamentals, Woodcarving Furniture, Woodturning II, and Drawing Composition. To register, visit the registration page or call 215-968-8100. For more information about the Department of the Arts, call 215-968-8425.

Jean Dolan
Assistant Director, Public Relations