When I set out to create a piece of furniture, I begin with the intent to make something of lasting integrity. Using my knowledge of wood and its changing properties, I strive to create a cohesive, well-crafted object. I work directly from design concept to execution, without making sketches. For me, something gets lost in trying to have the whole object figured out prior to building. Part of the journey of building is the unknown of the finished work. How is it going to end? It is this mystery that sustains my focus on a work from its conception to its completion.
I consider myself primarily a cabinetmaker. A cabinet is often the most curious and intriguing piece of furniture in a home. A cabinet holds things, like secrets. I'm drawn to that, as well as to the level of interaction required with a cabinet. You have to touch it, open it, manipulate it, and work with it. A cabinet also has many moving parts and thus requires a tremendous amount of detail work. Precise and well-executed detail work is a fundamental element in all of my furniture.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to harvest much of the lumber I have used to create my furniture. This has been one of the most important and lasting influences on my work. It is a humbling process to watch as these large trees, which have stood for hundreds of years, finally die, and become lumber. I strive to assure their second life in a piece of furniture is as noble as their first.
Throughout my career, I have created cabinets in series. The Inner Light series explores the relationship between a cabinet’s interior and its exterior. Negative space is incorporated in the façade design, while the top of the cabinet floats above a wide gap, admitting a view of the inside of the case. This design allows light to come into the cabinet via the top and lets the light shine out through the front doors, thereby calling into question the boundaries between exterior and interior.
The Sarcophagus series was inspired by a visit to a display of Egyptian sarcophagi at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was impressed by the paint, the gilding, the carving, and the overall decorativeness of these ancient burial cases. I also noticed the spacer blocks that lined their bases and incorporated a similar pattern of horizontal details to the façade of my work. I recently (2018) completed the sixth cabinet in the Sarcophagus series.
1986 BS, Lombard Institute of Technology, Lombard, IL
1982-83 Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, MO
1999 Best of Show, Lakefront Festival of Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
1998 Best of Show, Lakefront Festival of Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
1997 Best of Show, Lakefront Festival of Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
1996 Best Furniture as Art, Milwaukee Magazine, Milwaukee, WI
1995 Best of Show, Festival Of The Arts, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI
1993 Best of Show, Illinois Ozark Craft Guild, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
1992 Best of Show, Illinois Ozark Craft Guild, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
1991 First Place, Furniture as an Art Form, Associated Artists’ Gallery, Carbondale, IL
1989 Best of Show, Colorado Woodworker’s Association Exhibition, Pioneer’s Museum, Colorado Springs, CO
2002 Charles Radtke: 17 over 7, Cedarburg Cultural Center, Cedarburg, WI
1996 An Unfolding Process, Plymouth Art Foundation, Plymouth, WI
2011-2012 Tributaries: Sarah Perkins. National Ornamental Metals Museum , Memphis, TN
2010 The Pierschalla Memorial Scholarship Furniture Exhibition. Mobilia Gallery, Boston MA
2002 Contemporary Studio Case Furniture: The Inside Story. Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
On Nature: Five Wisconsin Artists. Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
1999 SOFA (Sculpture, Objects & Functional Art) – Chicago, Chicago, IL
1996 Enhancing the Living Space, West Bend Art Museum, West Bend, WI
1994 Southern Illinois Artists, Illinois Artisans Shop, Chicago, IL
1993 Crafting Currents, Lockport Gallery, Lockport, IL
Fine Furniture by Kyle Kinser and Charley Radtke, Craft Alliance, St. Louis, MO
1989 Contemporary Religious Works, 1989 Art Exposition, Columbus, OH
Boston Museum Of Fine Art, Boston, MA
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee WI
West Bend Art Museum, West Bend, WI
University of St. Mary of the Lake Theological Chapel, Mundelein, IL
Indian Community School of Milwaukee, Inc., Milwaukee, WI
Borglum Ranch, Hermosa, SD
Caroline and Roger Ford, New Vernon, NJ
Brent Kington, Cobden, IL
Dennis Rocheleau, Fairfield, CT
Doreen and Sandy Wirth, Cedarburg, WI
Marcia and Kent Velde, Milwaukee, WI
Heidi and Greg Borca, Cedarburg, WI
Adamson, Glenn. “A Perfect Match: The Furniture of Charley Radtke.” Woodwork, no. 78 (December 2002): 24-31.
Adamson, Glenn and Oscar P. Fitzgerald, Furniture Studio: Furniture Makers Exploring Digital Technologies Asheville, NC: The Furniture Society, 2005.
Blankemeyer, Dennis. Craft Furniture: The Legacy of the Human Hand. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2003.
Boyd, Virginia T. and Glenn Adamson. Contemporary Studio Case Furniture: The Inside Story. Madison, WI: Elvehjem Museum of Art, 2002.
Fitzgerald, Oscar P. Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery Smithsonian American Art Museum. East Petersburg, PA: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2008.
Gray, Jacquelyn. “Going with the Grain.” The Milwaukee Journal, (February 19, 1995): F1, 6.
Gyamati, Susan. “Wood That Thou Could See the Beauty... ” Exclusively Yours, (April, 1999): 52-56.
Kaiser, Jo-Ann. “Furniture Designs Begin with Wood, End with the Details.” Custom Woodworking Business 7, no. 9 (September 1997): 79-85.
Kelsey, John and Rick Mastelli. Furniture Studio: The Heart of Functional Arts. Asheville, NC: The Furniture Society, 1999.
Kelsey, John and Rick Mastelli. Tradition in Contemporary Furniture. Asheville, NC: The Furniture Society, 2001.
Petaschnick, JoAnn. “Naturally Perfect.” M Magazine 11, no. 4 (March 2007): 50-54.
Radtke, Charles. “Animate Your Designs: Furniture Comes to Life with 3-D Software.” Home Furniture 8 (October 1996): 90-93.
Reed, W.A. “Charles Radtke, Furniture Maker.” Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine 2, no. 1: 46-59.
West, Janice. Art for the Wall Furniture and Accessories: The Designer’s Sourcebook 13. Madison, WI: The Guild, 1998.