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!
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!
Vermont maple syrup has been a topic of discussion lately at Vermont Woods Studios. We have had a few people mention that they have started to see the iconic metal sap buckets hanging from maple trees. Many of us were in agreement that it seemed too soon for the sugaring season to begin; however, we are beginning to hear that the sap buckets aren’t lying; it is sugaring season.
To commence the Vermont maple sugaring season, Governor Peter Shumlin will tap a sugar maple tree on the Vermont State House lawn. This event will happen on February 27th, with many maple themed events following.
Vermont Tourism has announced that they have joined with Vermont’s Chief Marketing Office, Ski Vermont, Vermont Maple Sugar Makers, Cabot Creamery, Long Trail Brewery, and Amtrak to provide a sweet Vermont travel deal. Amtrak’s Vermonter and Ethan Allen trains will have ambassadors on board every Friday through March 15, showcasing spring skiing and the maple sugaring season. According to a recent press release, the ambassadors will “provide information, concierge services, goodies and ski deals.” During the train ride, passengers will be able to sample Cabot cheddar cheese, Vermont maple syrup and Long Trail beer (March 1 only). The Vermonter train has scheduled routes from Penn Station in New York City to Rutland and to Waterbury, and the Ethan Allen train will have a route between Waterbury and Springfield, MA. For more information about the schedules, please the Vermont Tourism website.
Vermont Tourism is offering several Maple themed travel packages, and the chance to win the “Tap into Vermont” vacation contest. The contest winner will receive a five day lift/lodging package at Killington Resort for two people, plus a Vermont maple gift basket.
Vermont is widely known for it’s real maple syrup, as it is the largest producer in the United States. An additional event to learn about how the pure maple syrup is produced, plan a trip to our state during the weekend of March 23-24. This will be the Maple Open House Weekend in Vermont. We will blog about this event and highlight some Vermont maple sugar producers in March.
Vernon, Vermont, where Vermont Woods Studios is located, is about 20 square miles and has a population of about 2,200. So, many of us either live in Brattleboro, or travel there a few times a week for necessities (groceries) or entertainment (movies, restaurants). This weekend, our neighboring town has an exciting event for Vermonters and visitors alike: the annual Harris Hill Ski Jump Event.
The Harris Hill Ski Jump is a 90-meter jump, which is designed to International Ski Federation specifications. It is the only 90-meter ski jump in New England, and there are less than a handful of this size in the United States. Skiiers from around the world zip down this huge jump, launching themselves more than 300 feet in the air at 60 miles per hour! As read in the Brattleboro Reformer, “According to event organizers, this year’s event will not only feature the annual Pepsi Challenge and the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament, but also the only U.S. Stop on the International Ski Federation’s FIS Cup and a stop on the United States American Ski Jumping U.S. Cup Tour.”
The ski jump closed in 2005 due to significant maintenance repair that needed to be done. With the help and support of the local community, they were able to complete an extensive renovation to restore the jump to it’s original first-class ski jump in 2009. The Harris Hill Ski Jump has continued to be a popular community based event each year. It is put on entirely by volunteers and local sponsorship. Join the Brattleboro area community during this is a two day event (Saturday, February 16th and Sunday, February 17th). Visit the Harris Hill Ski Jump website for the full schedule and additional event information.
Come visit for Presidents Day weekend and enjoy this event. In addition to flying skiiers, there will be concessions, a beer tent, and souvenirs. We just had a huge snow storm (thanks, Nemo), so this is a great time to be in Vermont!
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.
Like most Vermonters we were lucky to find Nemo pretty tolerable– for a winter storm, that is. Vernon got about a foot of fluffy white snow and our dedicated road crew was out pushing it around in no time. Finally it’s winter in Vermont!
When I was a kid, storms like this were routine throughout the winter. We grabbed our skis and happily headed towards the slopes. So today I thought it fitting to give the snowy slopes of Pine Top, aka Stonehurst a try. I found the old toboggan my parents gave my siblings and me for Christmas many years ago and pulled it up to the top of the hill (fortunately Ken had re-conditioned it when Kendall and Riley were little and it’s still in great shape).
I found a spectacular Vermont view on the knob where the old Pine Top warming shed used to be! Today was a beautiful day for sledding and the snow was dry and fast. I made a few trips up and down the slope before I started pining away for the ancient rope tow that used to be installed at Vernon’s former ski area. Or even the old horse tow that preceded that.
Then I saw that Ken had finished plowing and had found an alternative way to enjoy the view, so I wrapped up my sledding and joined him for a drink. After all the winter weather watches and warnings, it turns out Nemo wasn’t so bad after all.
If you’re in the area, stop by Pine Top, take a sleigh ride and enjoy the view before the snow melts! We’ll supply the drinks.
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!
This Vermont winter event is the perfect opportunity to get outside to do something you love, or to try something new. There is a small fee to participate in the event, $10 (or $8 if you’re a member), but the Green Mountain Club’s 17th Annual Snowshoe Festival and Winter Party is to benefit their education programs.
The event consists of guided snowshoe hikes and nature walks around the 40 acres surrounding the Green Mountain Club’s headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont. The tours are tailored towards a variety of skill levels, so if you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to join in on the fun! This is a great time to learn how to snowshoe and enjoy wintertime. The event will also have tours for intermediate and advanced snowshoers. These hikes will take place from 8:30am-3:00pm.
If staying at the Green Mountain Club’s headquarters is up your alley, here is the list of on-campus workshops:
- A Bird On Glove demonstration by VINS (with funding from Kettering Family Foundation)
- Dog Sledding with Anam Cara Siberians
- Winter Cooking and Camping with South Burlington’s Eastern Mountain Sports
- Kids’ activities through the Winooski Valley Park District
- Massages by Jeffery Williams, Certified Massage Therapist
- North Branch Nature Center’s Animal Tracking
- How to Dress in Layers and Having Fun with Kids with Outdoor Gear Exchange
- Face-painting with Joy from vermontfaceandbody.com
- Snowflake making, snacks, and more!
Mother Nature was a few days late bringing us a white Christmas, but we finally have snow in southern Vermont. I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with winter. I love winter activities, but I hate winter chores. So, the other morning as I was digging out my car for the first time this season (winter chore), I focused on my favorite Vermont winter activities. There are a lot of things to do in Vermont during the wintertime, so I have narrowed down my list to 5 things, just for you!
Whether you are a snow bunny at heart, or are on the fence, there’s something on this list for everyone.
1. I’ll start with the obvious-skiing and snowboarding! Vermonters wait all year for winter so we can hit the mountains. We have ski resorts large and small scattered across the state. No matter your skill level, there is a mountain and an instructor perfect for you. Vermont skiing is so legendary, that a company called Ski Vermont was created. They track the current conditions, promote events and deals, and of course, help you find the perfect resort. If you’re a new Vermont visitor, or a returning visitor looking for a new adventure, be sure to check out Ski Vermont’s Resort Finder.
2. A little less athletic way to enjoy the snow is by going snow tubing! This winter activity is fun for children adults alike. The best part about this modern day sledding activity, is that you don’t have to walk back up a steep hill every time you slide down. Many resorts now let you relax as catch a ride back to the top. Okemo, Mount Snow, Smugglers’ Notch, and Magic Mountain are just a few places where you can snow tube in Vermont this winter. Be sure to look at your favorite winter resort’s website for snow tubing options.
3. Take a sleigh ride. Sleigh rides are a fun way to see the Vermont countryside. A quintessential sleigh ride brings you back in time, and allows you to enjoy the Vermont winter weather. Many farms in Vermont offer winter sleigh rides. Additionally, many mountain resorts will either offer horse sleigh rides, or can set you up with a local farm who offers them. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont offers horse drawn sleigh rides from December through February.
4. Go ice skating. Many communities have public skating rinks and offer skate rentals. Skating indoors or outdoor is equally as fun, and a fun winter activity. The Vermont Outdoor Guide Association has put together a list of skating rinks around the state. If you have your own skates, find a frozen lake or pond to go skating (if there aren’t any locals out on the ice, it’s probably not a safe place). Before you go skating over a body of water, make sure to read the ice safety tips on the bottom of the VOGA website, too. Your inn keeper will also have information about safe ice skating locations.
5. If looking at the snow through a window is more your taste, perhaps shopping may be on your Vermont winter to-do list. Our state is filled with locally owned shops. Just go to any downtown, and you will find a variety of stores. You may even run into a shop owner or two. One of my favorite Vermont shopping areas is Church Street Marketplace located in downtown Burlington, Vermont. They have shops, boutiques, coffee houses, pubs and restaurants galore. Church Street is well known for being an open air mall, as it is a closed off pedestrian walk way that has shops located on both sides. Vermont also has two factory outlet shopping locations: Essex Junction and Manchester. Find products from your favorite designers at a discounted price.
For more Vermont winter activities, the Vermont Tourism website has great information, travel tips, and ideas for your winter vacation.
What are your favorite Vermont winter activities? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.
Vermont Made Furniture Is Thriving
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.
Some Vermont Furniture History
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.