February 5th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Some parts of the Green Mountain State may have run out of snow this week, but don’t let that deter you from jumping in the car and taking a couple Vermont road trips. Our ski areas all make snow and temps have been perfect for doing that lately, so skiers are in the all set club. But if you’re not a skier or your knees need a break we’ll post a few Vermont road trip suggestions you may not have thought about yet.
First up is the The Vermont Forest Heritage Trail. It’s a driving tour of Vermont’s woodworking shops, studios and showrooms– large and small. You can pick up a guide booklet at any Vermont Welcome Center or download it here. In it you’ll find a Vermont map with dozens of furniture makers and their studios. You’ll also find information on Vermont’s sustainable forestry industry and an invitation to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, a managed forest in the central region of the state.
Here’s your chance to connect with nature and see how Vermont craftspeople incorporate it into the sustainable furniture they design and build. This initial Heritage Tour goes through the middle of Vermont and features Clear Lake Furniture in Ludlow, Shackleton Thomas in Bridgewater and Copeland Furniture in Bradford. Maple Landmark Toys are also included. The Vermont Wood Manufacturing Association is working on updating the brochure with additional tours throughout the state so stay tuned for more options. Happy trails to you!
January 30th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Vermont custom furniture takes center stage this month at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe. Members of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers are showcasing examples of their work, which (in my humble opinion) is among the finest custom furniture you’ll find anywhere.
The Stowe expo, Source focuses on the origin of all elements that collaborate to make the final exquisite and creative piece. “The exhibit maps the source of materials, the relationships between forester, mill and craftsperson, as well as the path that the artists took (who influenced them, and where they learned their craft) to become furniture makers”.
Many of our favorite Vermont custom furniture makers are represented in Stowe, including: George Ainley, Erin Hanley, James Becker, Steve Holman, Hugo Belton, David Hurwitz, Richard Bissell, Bill Laberge, Dave Boynton, Mario Messina, Tim Clark, Dan Morsheim, Doug Clarner, Pete Novick, Johns Congdon, Walt Stanley and Bob Gasparetti.
At Vermont Woods Studios our focus has always been on “where does your furniture come from” particularly from an environmental perspective (where is the wood from and was it sustainably harvested).
What I love about this expo is that it takes a broader look into the origin of these works of art, focusing on the artists, their inspirations and the chain of partners involved in getting their wood from the forest to their studios.
If you’re heading up to Stowe to ski and you love woodworking, be sure to make time to stop at the Helen Day Center for a relaxing and inspiring visit. Hours are Wednesday – Sunday 12pm-5pm and by appointment. Admission is by donation. It’s well worth the trip!
January 29th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Congratulations to Brent Karner of ClearLake Furniture in Ludlow for being selected Vermont Woodworker of the Year. The award was presented to Brent last Friday by Mike Rainville, President of the Vermont Wood Manufacturing Association, VWMA. It was in recognition of his work in designing and crafting 150 eco-friendly, stackable cherry wood chairs for the University of Vermont’s Memorial Lounge on UVM’s Burlington campus.
Have you ever noticed that chairs in auditoriums are rarely handcrafted of solid wood and rarely comfortable? Well it seems that Richard Cate, UVM Vice president for finance and administration decided to change that. He insisted on finding a competitive bid for beautiful, comfy, high quality, Vermont made STACKABLE chairs and Brent Karner’s proposal fit the bill.
Brent, his brother and two of their craftsmen at Clear Lake Furniture spent 3 months designing and building the chairs. Each chair contains 41 separate pieces. Sheahan and Sons Lumber in Weatherfield transformed 400 local, sustainably harvested logs from Bethel, VT into 6,150 pieces of wood designed to Brent’s specs. The seats were crafted by Don Heaton Upholstery in Chester, VT. Everything from A to Z was locally made in Vermont!
Isn’t it great to see another example of Vermonters leading the way in the American Made manufacturing movement?
January 24th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Last year we had so much interest from customers about the history of Vermont made furniture, we started an encyclopedia of sorts. Did you know that Vermont furniture making history can be traced back to the 17th century? And by the 18th century almost every town in Vermont had woodworkers making furniture, tools and utensils.
Wood products became the single most important manufacturing industry in Vermont during the 19th century. It was then that Vermont made furniture and wood products began their long history of export to customers all over the U.S. and abroad. Wood furniture, wooden cutting boards and bowls, bowling pins, baskets, drumsticks, toys, musical instruments, golf tees, cheese boxes, wooden dolls, gun racks, Scrabble tiles, snowshoes, clothes pins, and wooden shipping boxes were (and continue to be) all products of a thriving Vermont woodworking industry.
Perhaps the biggest contributor to a growing fine furniture industry was the Green Mountain Forest which covered 90% of Vermont in the 1760s. In the 1700s Vermont contained extensive forests of various tree species that were 6 feet in diameter and as high as thirteen-story buildings; some more than 300 years old. Wood created an identity for many Vermont towns that became known for logging, lumber mills, and a continuous succession of wood products manufacturers.
In some towns, the Vermont made furniture and wood industries provided income for the majority of the population. Technology and products changed with the times to increase production and efficiency, meet market demand, and capitalize on popular trends and tastes. Owners of the mills and factories became community leaders who took responsibility for the commercial and civic growth of their towns.
Craftsmen hailing from Wilmington, Norwich, Middlebury, Shaftsbury, Rutland, Charlotte, Putney and Bennington were among the master craftsmen of 18th and 19th century Vermont. Some prominent luxury, custom furniture makers of the time include: George Stedman of Norwich, Vermont, c. 1800-20, Asahel (b. 1759) and Martin (1778-c. 1830) Cheney of Putney, Vermont, 1798-1803, Hastings Warren (1779-1845), of Middlebury, Vermont and Levi Pitkin (1774-1854) of Montpelier, Vermont, c. 1800. Their work adorned the homes and offices of the world’s rich and famous.
H.T. Cushman Furniture in North Bennington, VT was one of the most prominent furniture companies in America, opening their colonial furniture business in 1892 and exporting from Vermont to the rest of the United States and overseas.
Antique dealers throughout the Green Mountain State display relics of the early Vermont furniture industry. The Shelburne Museum, Bennington Museum and Skinner Auctioneers have recently showcased Vermont made furniture collections and pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. Check out the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association website for further information about the history of woodworking in Vermont.
December 23rd, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
Vermont furniture seems to be getting famous these days. During a down economy when housing sales (traditionally the driver for furniture sales) are in the ditch, Vermont made furniture continues to increase in popularity. As a company that sells exclusively Vermont made furniture, we chat daily with customers who inquire about all the details of our state’s signature craft.
So I’ve begun to compile the essence of these conversations into what we’re loosely calling a Vermont Furniture Encyclopedia. It’s posted on our website and includes topics like the History of Vermont Made Furniture, Vermont Furniture Makers, Vermont Furniture Styles, Sustainability and Vermont Made Furniture, Woods Used in Vermont Furniture Making, Education and Training, Vermont Furniture Quality and Craftsmanship, and How to Find and Purchase Vermont Made Furniture.
Check it out. You may be surprised to learn that Vermonters have been crafting wood furniture for over 250 years. Back in the 18th century, wood furniture, cutting boards, bowls, bowling pins, baskets, drumsticks, toys, musical instruments, golf tees, cheese boxes, dolls, gun racks, Scrabble tiles, snowshoes, clothes pins, and wooden shipping boxes were (and continue to be) all products of a thriving Vermont woodworking industry.
And in modern times, during the last half century, when furniture companies from across America began outsourcing top American brands (including Ethan Allen, Bassett, Broyhill, Thomasville, La-Z-Boy and Lane) to Asia, Vermont companies stayed home, remaining true to their values of quality, community and local economies. You’ll find a list of notable contemporary Vermont furniture makers, sorted by size and specialty in the encyclopedia. Plus learn fun facts like which state ranks #1 in furniture makers per capita.
We’ll consider the encyclopedia a work in progress and I invite others in the Vermont Furniture World to contribute. Send comments in the section below, on our Facebook or by emailing me at peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com.
November 8th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
I was researching Vermont wood products today and discovered these custom made wood hats, handcrafted by Johannes Michelsen of Manchester Center, Vermont. Incredible! Although they are found in museums around the world (including the Smithsonian) you can wear them and they’re very comfy. Johannes customizes wood hats to exactly fit your head. He also offers classes, workshops and videos to people interested in crafting their own wooden hats. It turns out Johannes is a leading authority on wood sculpture and has written many articles and books about the art of wood turning. His work has been celebrated in dozens of prestigious public and private collections around the world. Here’s a quick look at Johannes’ hand-turned wooden hats.
Johannes’ turned wood hats can be created in many styles including classic cowboy hat, old fashioned top hats, crusher hats that look like you could fold them and stuff them in a pocket, sun hats with an extra wide, down swooping brim, bowler hats and a number of other styles. Although they’re intended as sculpture, when custom fitted they’re light weight and comfortable to wear.
Johannes outlines the basic process for handcrafting wooden hats on his website, starting with wood selection. Sustainably harvested burls and blocks of wood are carefully chosen and prepped with a chainsaw and band saw. From there, rough and fine turning techniques and equipment are used to generate the basic shape of the hat, followed by precise bending and finishing.
Johannes welcomes students of all levels and abilities to his woodworking classes and I’m happy to report there are four more classes scheduled in Manchester Center between now and the end of the year. Tuition is $650 and it includes wood for your hats, breakfast and lunch all three days.
Christmas is coming! If you’re looking for a special gift, how could you possibly come up with anything more unique, personal and customized than a wooden hat?
October 26th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
Lucky me. I stopped by the Interstate 91 N Guilford Welcome Center (a mile south of Brattleboro on I91) the other day to drop off some brochures and stumbled upon a beautiful collection of oil paintings by nationally acclaimed Vermont artist, Paul Stone. You never know what amazing stuff you’re going to find at Vermont’s Welcome Centers (it’s not unusual for Paul Stone’s painting to sell for over $10,000 each)!
Paul Stone is a master at capturing quintessential Vermont rural scenes like the barns and farmhouses in my snapshot above. He’s known for his use of light, shadows and a vibrant palette to create scenes that are realistic and abstract at the same time. Maybe it’s because I live in Vermont but when I look at Paul’s work I feel like I’m inside his scenes, enjoying the view and the moment.
Apparently many others around the world feel a similar connection to Paul’s work because it hangs in numerous corporate and private collections around the world. Paul Stone’s shows are relatively rare events so if you love art and you’re coming to Vermont to enjoy the last few days of leaf peeping season be sure to stop at the Guilford Welcome center and take this one in.
A little bit of background about the artist: Paul is a native Vermonter who grew up in Westminster and has been painting since he was a young boy. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Tufts University. While I was admiring Paul’s paintings, I happened to see my neighbors from Earth’s Supergrains who told me Paul used to be their dentist. What? Like this post if you think it’s unfair for one person to have such an abundance of talent. Haha!
October 13th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
We’re right at the height of leaf-peeping season in Vermont. If you’re planning a trip you might want to check out Vermont’s Foliage report or our friend Rachel Carter’s article, “Best Fall Drives in Vermont” to gather travel tips about the fine art of leaf-peeping.
This year leaf peepers have had some rain but don’t let that dampen your spirits. Escape the weather by ducking into Vermont’s many fine art galleries! Last weekend I visited one of the best, The Edgewater Gallery in the heart of downtown Middlebury, VT. Edgewater is elegant both inside and out. The setting overlooks lovely Middlebury Falls on Otter Creek. If you haven’t strolled along the river’s banks and wound your way in and out of Middlebury’s charming downtown area, you’re missing out! I promise, it’s worth the trip.
Inside Edgewater Gallery you’ll enjoy the creative works of some of Vermont and New England’s most talented artists and artisans. You’ll find something for everyone: many diverse paintings, sketchings, ceramics, pottery, glass works, jewelery, fabric, wooden furniture and more. The prices range from affordable to expensive. But even the priciest pieces are far less than you would find in Manhattan– and of no smaller stature either!
You can find the inside scoop on Edgewater’s collections on the current shows section of their website or on their Facebook. And speaking of Facebook, let us know about your favorite Vermont Fine Art Galleries on our Vermont Fine Furniture Facebook. Thanks and happy travels.
September 28th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
The weather isn’t looking so great for leaf peeping in Vermont this weekend. So if you’re traveling around the Green Mountain State and looking for indoor activities, try heading to Woodstock, VT for the Ninth Annual Vermont Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festival.
This year’s theme is “From Forest to Furniture: Take Home a Piece of Vermont”. It dovetails with our plans at Vermont Woods Studios for a showroom at Stonehurst in that the focus is to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from.
Much like the organic food movement, the organic furniture movement is catching on. Customers are realizing both the economic and health benefits to buying locally crafted furniture, handmade from real, solid, sustainably harvested wood.
Come visit with some of the regions (and world’s) most respected fine furniture makers in Woodstock this weekend. You’ll be able to see and feel their furniture creations and also learn about the well-managed forests where their wood is harvested. Free tours are available of the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Here customers can experience the forest and learn about each of the many links in the chain from forest to trees to furniture.
Shown above: Brent Karner of ClearLake Furniture in Ludlow VT won first place for production furniture in the 2011 Vermont Fine Furniture Festival. Who is going to win this year?
September 27th, 2012 by Kelsey Eaton
By Heather Barrett
full of artists and artisans, and this weekend is a perfect opportunity to discover
their products and visit their studios.
There are two events, one in Manchester,
and the other in Brattleboro, for
you to explore this weekend.
Craftproducers Manchester Fall Art and Craft Festival
September 28-30, 10am-5pm
starting their foliage season with an outdoor event celebrating the local art
community. Over 180 artisans will have their craftwork on display and for
purchase. Art work ranges from photography to paintings to clothing to maple
distilled vodka. In addition to the beautiful array of art on display, the
festival offers food and drink. There will be a food area serving a variety of
localvore items, and a Vermont Beer, Cheese and Sausage tent. Spend the day
meeting artists, purchasing gifts for the upcoming holidays, and eating
delicious food. For more information about this event, visit the
Brattleboro-West Arts' 4th Annual Open Studio Tour
September 29-30, 10am-5pm
The town of Brattleboro
is Vermont Woods Studios' neighbor, located in the southeast corner of Vermont.
Brattleboro is known for it's
thriving arts community, and this weekend you will have the opportunity to meet
some of the artists. Artists are opening up their studios this weekend to the
public. There will be 13 different locations with 16 artists showing off their
crafts. The tour is mapped out on a brochure that you can print from their
website, pick up at any of the studio locations, or get from the Brattleboro
Chamber of Commerce. At the studio locations you will see where artists make
violins, blow glass, paint, and create many more items in different mediums. In
addition, to conclude the first night of the weekend event, the Chelsea Royal
Diner will be hosting a special dinner on Saturday. The dinner will feature a
selection of locally produced foods.
This is another opportunity to meet artists and learn about their crafts.
The Brattleboro-West Open Studio Tour has been recognized by the Boston
Globe. For more information about the
event, please visit the Brattleboro-West Arts website.
Heather Barrett is a Marketing Assistant at Vermont Woods Studios, an online furniture gallery which showcases Vermont's finest wood furniture. Follow our blog to learn about Vermont fine furniture, Vermont happenings, our mission, and our team.