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.”
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Casual cool for Thanksgiving
Shop Lafayette goes strong
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
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By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
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State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
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Saints Street cottage or River Ranch condo