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Woodworker's craft to grace Fallbrook's library entrance

When the new Fallbrook Library opens next year, patrons will get a rare opportunity to see the handiwork of Michael O’Brien.

At the entrance to the new library will sit the Orchid Table, an O’Brien creation that is made from bird’s eye maple, regular maple and highlighted with ebony and polished aluminum.

Originally the 6x4 foot table was to be made of stone. But O’Brien discovered that it would be too heavy for a piece that would sit on casters and be moveable.

“Besides, wood is a lot more fun,” O’Brien said. “There’s a lot more texture going on.”

Except for the library piece and occasional commission, most of the one-of-a-kind functional art furniture he now makes, helps fill his 3,400-square-foot home that sits atop a hill in Fallbrook overlooking the Interstate 15.

Working in wood, stone or metal is a labor of love for O’Brien, who moved to Fallbrook 15 years ago to escape Midwest winters and be close to the creative energy of a community that is attracting artists.

He is one of nine artists commissioned by the Friends of Fallbrook Library to create unique pieces of art for the Fallbrook Public Library.

The Friends, a nonprofit group that runs the Bottom Shelf used book store, has raised $2.4 million for the new Fallbrook Library, including $375,000 for artwork.

The art, in addition to offering visual inspiration and relief, reflects Fallbrook’s growing “art-town” image.

O’Brien, a self-inspired and self-taught artist, grew up on a farm about 30 minutes south of Cleveland. He tried college but didn’t know what he wanted to do, so he apprenticed as a carpenter.

After breaking his leg, he went into business for himself making custom furniture.

Three decades later, O’Brien is still at it, helping to fill rooms in his unique home at his own pace.

“I make furniture as I go,” he said. “I work until I’m sleepy and sleep until I wake up.”

He was never quite sure how to describe his furniture style until he visited South Beach in Miami. Now along with functional art furniture he says his pieces embody the Art Deco style.

Whatever the label, in a 2002 newsletter, San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association commented on the unique style of O’Brien’s furniture, saying “it’s definitely not anything you’ve seen before.”

The Friends has set a goal to raise another $500,000 for book collections to complete the Outdoor Reading Garden and provide a baby grand piano, theater lighting and sound system for the community room, which will serve as Fallbrook’s meeting place. Visit their website at for information about donor opportunities.

Founded in 1963, the Friends of Fallbrook Library is one of the largest and most active Friends groups in San Diego County.

Its more than 150 volunteers run the Bottom Shelf used book store and support the library by stocking shelves and assisting with children’s programs.


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