With ties to the original settlers and an abiding devotion to Acadian and Creole furniture, cabinetmaker Greg Arceneaux sets up shop for the first time at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles. By Walter Pierce
Greg Arceneaux traces his family history back to Le Grand Dérangement — the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British in the mid 18th century — and a land grant in St. James Parish. An apocryphal tale in the Arceneaux family says the oak trees at Oak Alley plantation were planted by his ancestors.
It’s little wonder the master craftsman would be drawn to a style of furniture that originated in colonial Louisiana and nearly fell extinct as the march of modernity and mass production washed over Bayou State culture a century or so ago.
After graduating from LSU with a fine arts degree — Arceneaux lived for a time in Lafayette in early ’70; he met his wife at the famous Jay’s Lounge and Cockpit in Cankton — he decided that art for art’s sake wasn’t his style. Acadian and Creole furniture were.
But he had to make do at first.
“I wanted to combine utility with beauty,” Arceneaux recalls. “I wanted to give my creations purpose beyond aesthetics and allow them to connect with people’s daily lives. I am basically self-taught because in the early 1970s there was very little training available for aspiring furniture makers in our area. I moved to Lafayette and managed to acquire some basic tools to practice woodworking techniques using recycled and found wood from demolition sites, houses being torn down as well as motorcycle and music store crates.”
Arceneaux’s awakening coincided with another renaissance in Lafayette: Cajun pride, roughly speaking.
“We began learning the Cajun French language that was being lost to the older generations, we started paying attention to our uniqueness and clinging to it before it disappeared,” the 60-year-old says. “I started visiting antique shops and collectors. There was a show in The Cabildo which also came to Lafayette of traditional Louisiana colonial furniture; pieces all made by Creole, Acadian and Spanish Louisiana native cabinetmakers. It was the first show of its kind as there are not very many examples of this style of furniture that have survived.”
The simplicity and elegance of the style caught Arceneaux’s eye. Furniture became a way to express himself artistically, to commemorate his cultural heritage and to make things that celebrate form and function with equal aplomb. His shop in Covington turns out everything from $10 roux spoons to $30,000 custom conference tables, but most of his business is from regular folks who appreciate the austere beauty of traditional Acadian and Creole furniture, and who simply want a solid piece of elegant furniture in their home. Arceneaux works with traditional Louisiana woods — cypress, poplar, walnut, Spanish cedar, cherry, pecan — that are locally sourced.
But the eye for detail doesn’t end there: “We use traditional techniques to ensure that these pieces will endure for generations just like the originals that inspired them,” he adds.
As a member of the Louisiana Crafts Guild, Arceneaux’s work is available in Lafayette year-round at Sans Souci Fine Crafts Gallery located adjacent to the eponymous park downtown. But he returns to Lafayette this weekend to join other crafts people at Girard Park during Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, a most appropriate venue for his Acadian and Creole creations.
“The decorative arts and furnishings are a tangible part of our culture just like the music, food, dance and language,” he adds. “What sets us apart is that once the last note has been played, the last dance danced, last bite of Granma’s delicacies consumed, my furniture is still there. What makes them similar is just like the recipes, lyrics, language and instruments, my furniture can be passed down generations.”
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Homecoming outfits with ease
Acadian style home in St. Martinville or traditional Breaux Bridge home
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
Three bedroom traditional or four bedroom traditional in Lafayette
Our fav dress for all seasons
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
Shoppers familiar with Louisiana-based Rouses Market might be surprised when they walk into the new third location set to open at the Corner of Johnston Street and Duhon Road south the Acadiana Mall on Wednesday.
Noted architect and co-founder/principal of Architects Southwest receives highest honor given to former student.
Know an innovator, job creator and visionary with a penchant for hard work? We want to know that person.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.