Welcome to my studio.

​My name is James Leslie Kennell.

​I am an anthropologist and woodworker.

As an anthropologist and woodworker, I strive to let the ideas and experience of the client guide the design and process of creating a piece of art or furniture. Designing a piece and working the materials into final form both play their parts in the lived experience of the maker and the client. I like to conduct an ethnography, of sorts, of a potential space for my work to reside: the aesthetic and experience of the client, the living space, how a piece will be interacted with, observed and connected with, all guide design. I like to say that “Design is Relative”, because creating, crafting, and executing design are guided by numerous ideas, purposes, needs, and desires. I also think that “Craftsmanship is not Relative”, because whatever the final design may be, the utmost skill and craft are put into every work.

Woodworking is an embodied and sensory process.

The actions, movements and repetitions of work; the look, the smell, the touch, the sound of the wood- these all play a part in the creation of a piece. The thoughts and actions of creating a piece of fine furniture are infused into it: from the moment ideas are put on paper until a finished piece is set in its place. The attention, skill, and work to create a piece contribute to value, both for the maker and client.

I always strive to find inspiration for design and construction from nature and from the materials themselves.

The grain patterns, colors, knots, heartwood and sapwood- even what are seen as “imperfections”- may all play a part in the look and feel of a piece. Nature is not always smooth and evenly tinted like a factory-built piece of furniture. The methods used to construct a piece contribute to design and I enjoy using different types of joinery to contribute to design- exposing a tenon, a dovetail, a wedge or a pin.

I make custom designed pieces that express the ideas and needs of a client and the skills and craft of the maker.

I prefer to create new designs and pieces for each client, without simply building reproductions or copies. While I primarily work in wood, I am open to incorporating complementary materials into my work. Designing and crafting a piece of fine furniture or art can be a challenging, fun, and rewarding process for the future owner as well as myself. The satisfaction that comes from the process becomes a part of the finished piece, and those meanings infused into the finished piece last a lifetime.

In my family, our ties to woodworking date back to the early 1900s.

Studio J・Leslie is a tribute - for all creative work builds on what came before.

I come from a line of woodworkers named Leslie; a common middle name on my father’s side of the family. My great-grandfather, John Leslie Kennell, worked most of his adult life in the Reaser-Gettysburg Furniture Company, from 1915 to 1945. At one time he and his four sons, including my grandfather, Charles Leslie, all worked in the furniture factories at E. Water and S. 4th Streets in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. John Leslie passed after arriving at the factory early one morning. Charles Leslie Kennell went on to farming most of his life, but always had his shop for carpentry and cabinetry. I grew up woodworking in my father’s shop, and often worked with him in his construction business. My woodworking skills come from years of experience and from professional instruction.

Over the past 20 years I have worked as an anthropologist doing public health research and development in West Africa and continue with that work still through the Couffo Collaborative.

My studio is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Shauna and I live with our two dogs, Kroeber and Lola.