Furniture Society Conference had an industrial focus
If you like making artistic contemporary furniture and want to hang out with other oddballs like yourself, The Furniture Society is the only game in town. Members include studio furniture makers, professors and teachers, designers of production pieces, museum curators, and even a few period furniture makers interested in the state of the art. It is a big tent, but at the center are the designer/makers, people who simply want to make furniture that refuses to compromise on either form or function.
The annual Furniture Society Conference moves from place to place but is usually held on the campus of a college or university that specializes in the fine arts, so the college’s furniture specialists can take part.
This year’s conference was held June 10-13 in Boone, North Carolina, at Appalachian State U., nestled in the heart of the mountains.
|More from the 2009 Furniture Society Conference:
• How Good Factory Furniture Is Designed
• Furniture Society honors Vladimir Kagan
This is the second conference I have attended and unfortunately this year’s theme, on the industry and commerce of furniture-making, didn’t fit Fine Woodworking’s focus as well as past conferences have. It did fit the location though, as North Carolina is the center of American factory furniture-making. The keynote was by Mitchell Gold, who runs a 700-person high-end furniture manufacturing business in the state. He focused on how to run a successful company, whether small or large, and his tips included:
1. Being determined to succeed and ready to work long hours to do so.
2. Trusting your vision and design sense, but knowing when to give up on a failed design, one that just won’t sell.
3. At the same time being ready to capitalize on a huge success, and gearing up to produce more product at the first sign that you have a hit on your hands.
4. The importance of both “earned” and paid advertising. The former means positive media coverage, and Gold said that the way to get it is to make things as easy as possible on the busy journalist. I second that. As for paid ads, he showed how very distinctive ads, ones that had an edge but matched the feeling of his furniture, were essential to his growth.
5. But most of all, Gold stressed the word “comfort,” and explained how it permeated all aspects of his business: for his staff, suppliers, and customers most of all. He worked to make his furniture comfortable for their bodies, lives, and décor, and made the buying process comfortable for them.
Despite the industrial focus, there still were some nuggets to be picked up by small-shop pros and hobbyists. Paul Henry, who teaches woodworking at Palomar College (Calif.) gave a wonderful demo on the simplicity and effectiveness of hammer veneering, proving that it is the easiest way to veneer free-form curved surfaces. After a brief demo, he stepped away from the glue pots, and handed the veneer hammers over to the audience, who had a blast laying down the diamonds of a harlequin pattern. On Saturday, Fine Woodworking sponsored a demo by recent contributor David Finck, on mastering handplanes, based on his FWW article and video.
This year's Furniture Society Conference was held at Appalachian State University, a beautiful campus nestled in the heart of North Carolina's Smoky Mountains.
Mitchell Gold spoke about his highly successful design and manufacturing business. He and his partner started the wave of slip-covered furniture a few decades back. He emphasized finding a niche and specializing.
As always, members were invited to show their own work at the conference. This re-interpretation of a Chippendale chair, by Worth Squire, is a good example of how a skilled designer/maker can take a classic piece in a new direction.
Another nice piece in the members gallery. This one is by Andy Pitts, of Heathsville, Va. Check out more of his work at www.AndrewPittsFurnitureMaker.com
No detail was overlooked in this fine piece.
Some members also donated pieces to be auctioned for charity. The auction was a lively event, attended by well-heeled members of the local community. I really liked this wall cabinet.
I really wanted to bid on this 50s-Modern chair in the charity auction, but then I simultaneously remembered my journalist's salary and heard my wife's voice in my head.
Paul Henry showed attendees the speed and ease of hammer-veneering, an age-old technique that relies on heated, animal-based glue. He then turned the hammer and glue pot over to them.