February 26th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Dorset is one of the prettiest hamlets in all of Vermont, so Dennis and I were happy to make the trek to Dorset Custom Furniture last Friday. For us, the main attraction wasn’t the quaint New England Village architecture or the view of the Green Mountain Forest. It was to meet with Dan Mosheim and three more of Dorset’s famous custom furniture makers. I guess it’s no coincidence that four of the country’s finest craftsmen have set up shop in this idyllic spot. Dorset is quintessential Vermont at it’s finest and it’s natural beauty inspires artists and craftspeople from all walks of life.
Once we found our way to the slice of paradise that’s home to Dorset Custom Furniture we caught up with Dan, his wife Kit, and their sons Will and Sam. The whole family is involved in the arts, creating not only furniture but also jewelry, musical instruments and sculpture.
Dan had invited three other powerhouses in custom furniture to meet with us: Steve Holman of Holman Studios, Bob Gasperetti and Bill Laberge. We were brainstorming ways to collaborate in shining a light on Vermont’s long legacy of creating sustainable, high end, custom furniture. Dennis and I extended an invitation to the Dorset crowd to show their furniture at Stonehurst, our new fine furniture gallery so we will be working with them to make that happen before our grand opening this summer.
If you’re wandering around the world of Vermont arts and crafts before that, be sure to drop by Dorset and visit these fine furniture craftsmen in their studios. I think you’ll find that in commissioning a piece of their custom furniture, you are acquiring much more that a functional piece of art. I’m not sure how to describe but it has to do with getting in touch with a level of authenticity that is often missing in our lives. I think you’ll just have to go to Dorset and check it out for yourself. Then tell us about your experience on Facebook. Happy travels!
February 23rd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Vermont woodworkers: the 10th Annual Vermont Fine Furniture Festival is upon us. Hard to believe it’s been ten years since VWMA (the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association) first led the initiative to share Vermont’s exquisitely beautiful handmade wood furniture with the rest of the world. Kathleen Wanner and a number of other visionaries in the Vermont wood working community began work in 2003 on what is now one of the Top 10 Fall Events in New England. It’s the Vermont Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festival and woodworkers throughout the Green Mountain State are encouraged to participate.
This year the Fine Furniture Festival is being held September 28-29 in Woodstock, Vermont at the Union Arena. Woodworkers can contact Erin Lorentz at VWMA to register for the show and/or the annual design competition (more about that later). Just to let fellow Vermont woodworkers know… the show really has an expansive reach. In addition to hundreds of craftsmanship fans from New England you may well meet customers from across America, Canada and beyond. We had a couple from California come to visit us at the festival a few years ago and we’ve run into shoppers from Alberta, UK and Germany as well. Vermont fine furniture has a good reputation and a far reach!
The woodworking festival is paired with the Forest Festival at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park on the same weekend and free shuttle buses run between the two locations. This gives visitors a chance to see and experience the sustainable forests of Vermont that supply the wood our furniture is made of. I can’t think of a better way for visitors to spend a sunny Autumn day, than taking in these two quintessential Vermont festivals. Be a part of it!
February 17th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
If you’re in Brattleboro this weekend for the Harris Hill Ski Jumping events and you need an escape from the cold, why not head downtown and wander around Main Street? You’ll find lots of little independent shops and art galleries to duck into– my favorite being Vermont Artisans Designs at 106 Main.
Owners Suzy and Greg Worden always have an eclectic mix of handcrafted artwork by some of the most talented artisans in Vermont and New England. You’ll find paintings, sculpture, pottery, hand-painted silk, carefully turned salad bowls; exquisitely finished furniture, lamps and other wonderful items crafted by well-established and emerging artisans.
This month, Vermont Artisan Designs Gallery is featuring the portraits of Juan Jr. Ramirez, and paintings by a variety of artists including Deborah Lazar, Carol Gobin, Paul Stone, Jeanette Staley, Jim Murphy and Dane Tilghman.
If this weekend doesn’t give you enough time to take in all the art Vermont Artisans has to offer, come back for Brattleboro’s monthly Gallery Walk. It’s held on the first Friday of each month. You’ll see why Brattleboro was named the No. 11 Best Small Town in America by Smithsonian Magazine and has consistently been in the Top 25 Best Arts Towns with populations of 100,000 or fewer.
Enjoy your weekend in Brattleboro– inside and out!
February 14th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Try celebrating Valentines Day in Vermont! Your romantic adventures could include anything from a visit to master craftsman Steve Holman’s studio to getting married on the slopes of your favorite ski resort.
Steve’s one of our favorite Vermont artisans, crafting the impossible out of wood and transforming it into beautiful, often whimsical furniture. Every Valentine’s Day I think of Steve’s bright red, heart-shaped chair. Wouldn’t this be a show-stopper gift for your honey on a day like today?
If you’re looking for an outdoorsy agenda for Valentines Day, how about a trip to Mount Snow for the second annual Cloud Nine Nuptials? Last year 20 couples renewed their vows and three couples tied the knot for the first time at the summit of Mt Snow. The event is free, taking place on the Cloud Nine trail where a local justice of the peace conducts a ceremony around a giant heart painted on the snow.
For more Vermont Valentines Day activities, check out Ski Vermont or stop by Vermont Teddy Bear where you can buy the world’s most expensive teddy bear. It’s the Big Hunka Love Bear and he goes for $30,000 including the 6 carat diamond ring he’s wearing.
February 9th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
I got a mysterious brown paper package in the mail yesterday. The return address label said Mountaine Meadows Vermont Made Pottery, South Ryegate, Vermont. I thought it was going to be a sample from one of our craftspeople in the Northeast Kingdom but instead it was an unexpected gift from my old pal, Doctor Blakley. I used to work for Sally at Tulane University in the distance learning section of the Center for Applied Environmental Public Health. She was my champion during a pretty difficult time in my life.
But anyway… inside the package was a personal note from Sally and a beautiful handmade wall plaque with the traditional Irish Blessing my mother’s had hanging on the wall of her home for over 50 years:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again, my friend
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
What a perfect gift!
If you’re ever looking for something special for a friend or relative, check out Mountaine Meadows Vermont Made Pottery. They have tons of plaques, dishes and magnets with messages of all types: funny, inspirational, religious, irreverent, sentimental… you name it. All made in America, handcrafted in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
And thanks, Sally for your kind and thoughtful support throughout the years. Did you notice that Mountaine Meadow let’s customers submit sayings for new pottery pieces? I think I’ll submit one: “old friends are the best friends”.
February 7th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Does this seem excessive? President Obama was presented with 500 personalized, limited edition limousines on his inauguration day, January 21, 2013. Each handmade automobile was carefully crafted in Vermont by our friend (and leader of Vermont’s Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA) Mike Rainville and his staff at Maple Landmark Toys.
Dennis and I were lucky enough to see the limos last week at the annual VWMA meeting which was held in Middlebury, Vermont at the headquarters for Maple Landmark. Actually, the toys were purchased by President Obama’s Inauguration Committee for resale as part of a fundraising activity to defray the cost of inauguration activities. The cool thing is that there are still a couple of these keepsakes left and you can buy a limo online for $20. Obama fans: hurry and scoop up this Vermont made souvenir before the secret gets out!
On another note, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Mike Rainville for his leadership and dedication to our Vermont made furniture and woodworking industry. As president of our industry group he’s been volunteering huge amounts of his time (for many years!) to promoting our craft and building synergy amongst our members. As owner and founder of Maple Landmark he acts as an ambassador showing customers all across American and around the world the beauty and quality of Vermont made wood products.
Last week Mike told us the story of how President Obama’s inauguration staff phoned him on December 28 to ask if he could design, produce and deliver the limos to Washington for the January 21 event. Less than a month’s time and during the holidays (a toy makers busiest season) too! But Mike and his staff were happy for the opportunity and pulled out all the stops to get the job done. He said the biggest challenge was getting timely government safety ratings and approvals but I guess the mention of his client might have greased the skids a bit on that. Great job, guys.
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.