News and Reviews
In a past life when I worked for GE, training US Navy personnel, we used to joke about what recruiters had told the guys to get them to sign up for service: “You too can work weekends, nights and holidays…”
Why am I remembering those words today as we’re recruiting for a new Assistant Webmaster position at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture? It’s a fun job (well I think so anyway) but it’s definitely a tough job. OK, for anyone thinking they might be interested: Full Disclosure. Here is the down side (a partial list follows):
- On the surface it’s a 40 hour/week job but you will be thinking about this job after you leave the office. In the car, at the gym, in the grocery store. We’re a small group trying to do the impossible, against all odds (think about it– selling fine furniture online?) so we’re always searching for new and better ideas. Unfortunately, it’s contagious.
- As the newest person in the group, you’ll be stuck doing a lot of things no one else wants to do. Adding new products to the website, photo shopping images, diagnosing and fixing website glitches and such.
- The pay is lousy and we’re only just now getting to the point where we’re improving our benefits package to include health insurance and more paid time off.
- We’re always doing some crazy project, like building bird houses or sponsoring a Made in America Christmas Shopping challenge and you have to be in photos of the event that go up on our blog and could possibly turn up elsewhere — who knows?
- As I said, this is only a partial list
But then again on the plus side, you’ll be working with some pretty interesting and clever characters who are on a mission to change the world (as much as we can, anyway). We’re partnering with some of Vermont’s best furniture makers to bring their high quality, sustainable wooden furniture to families all across America through the power of the Internet. And through this sustainable furniture we’re raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.
We do have a few other advantages besides working with fabulous people towards an environmental mission. Soon we’ll be moving our offices to a newly renovated 200 year old historic farm house on the grounds of a former Vermont ski area called Stonehurst. Ski break during lunch, anyone? Plus we’re looking forward to a year of exciting change and continued growth ahead, which will benefit our staff in many ways (we’ve been roughly doubling our size for the past 4 years). Regarding specifics to this job, the best advantage there– is that you’ll get to work for Neville Kerr who is the smartest website guy I know. Getting trained by Neville is a huge benefit. The two of you will be leading our company into adventurous new territory.
If you haven’t navigated back to Monster.com or Craigslist for continued job searching yet, have a look at the posting for this Assistant Webmaster job. Check out the rest of our blog and Facebook for more insight into this small, but growing company.
Our Acting Webmaster, Loryn, does a lot for Vermont Woods Studios. She was hired as a Marketing Assistant and when our webmaster left, she seamlessly took on that role. From making our website beautiful, to leading our benefit meetings, to writing about green interior design on our blog, Loryn does it all- with a smile.
Now, we have the chance to do something for Loryn and her family (the Dion’s). We received the news last week that Loryn’s family home in Fall River, Massachusetts, suffered substantial damage after a tragic kitchen fire. Luckily, all of her family members and pets are all okay. The house’s kitchen was affected the most by the fire, however, the rest of her home has smoke and water damage too.
To help the Dion’s, we’re doing what we know best: selling furniture. We will be having a benefit furniture sale on Friday, March 22. For every sale we have that day we will donate $50 to the Dion’s.
Help us help the Dion’s! This benefit furniture sale falls on the same day as our Make A Set Furniture Sale, so you can save big while helping one of our hardworking employees. The more you buy, the more you save, and the more her family benefits!
Spread the word about our benefit furniture sale by sharing this post with your friends! It’s one week away!
What do you love best about Vermont? Our maple syrup? Organic cheese? Skiing or snowboarding? Mountain climbing? Our farm to plate restaurants? Chances are whatever your favorites are in Planet Vermont, they are here for you because of Vermont’s working landscape. That’s the term Vermonters are using to refer to the Green Mountain state’s pastoral forests and fields– and there’s a concerted effort afoot to ensure they will remain sustainable.
Last year our Legislature passed the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative which allocated $1Million to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.” A request for proposals to carry out the WL initiative was issued last year and yesterday was the deadline for submittals.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all across the state have offered ideas and projects that will eventually add up to a wave of renewed commitment and progress in sustaining our working lands. We at Vermont Woods Studios are among the group.
Our proposal seeks to use WL grant monies to close the final funding phase of renovating our Stonehurst Furniture Gallery and Nature Center. From a Working Lands perspective, one of the advantages of Stonehurst is that it tells the story of where Vermont made furniture comes from and how it’s made– sustainably.
Putting our Working Lands proposal together has been quite a process and regardless of whether we win an award, I think it’s been time well spent. I know the grant is highly competitive. It’s my understanding that the WL Board received some 268 proposals for a total request of over $12 million. They are working with only $1Million in funding, so the odds aren’t good.
But I feel our proposal answers an important need in providing a market for Vermont’s wood furniture and a destination that will attract customers from beyond our borders. We’ve been able to forge many new partnerships and collaborations as a result of the grant application process and that alone makes the effort worthwhile.
Decisions on grant awards are expected in April and we’ll keep you posted. Best of luck to everyone who has invested their time into this important project!
Wags to Riches Auction
As Heather blogged last week, this past weekend was the annual Wags to Riches Auction to benefit the Windham County Humane Society. Peggy, Douglas and I were in attendance to show our support and represent Vermont Woods Studios.
The night started at 6:00pm with the silent auction, which was broken out into three sections, which allowed people to move around and see everything there was to offer. And with close to 200 items in the auction, there was a lot to see! Light hor d’oeuvres were served as WCHS supporters mingled and bid on their items. Throughout the evening, staff pulled numbers for door prizes and kept everyone updated on when tables would be closing. After the silent auction ended, everyone was seated and the live auction began. It was amazing to see how many people were willing to spend money on multiple items to benefit WCHS. After the live auction, three 50/50 raffle tickets were pulled, in which both Douglas and our friend Annette managed to profit from. We each walked away having donated something to the humane society, either by bidding on an item or making a monetary donation. Annette walked away with a beautiful new Raleigh bicycle, Douglas managed to outbid Peggy on some flowers from Linden Gardens and I was able to score a spa and gym membership.
WCHS managed to sell every item on the list, plus raise an additional $4,000 to buy new computers for their office. We were so happy to be able to donate one of our cutting boards and a vacation trip to such a great organization. Overall, it was a great night and we look forward to the next time we can help out our friends at WCHS.
Our friends over at the Vermont Center for EcoStudies VCE and the Northern Woodlands have launched a contest for Naturalist of the Year. If you want to be in contention for the big prize (a subscription to The Northern Woodlands Magazine), you’d better get outside and TODAY. Look, I’m going to be honest with you. Judging from the response they’ve gotten so far you’re not likely to win this one. Birders are serious competitors! Have you seen that movie, “The Big Year” with Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin? Well these guys vying for Vermont Naturalist of the Year remind me of them. Great competitors! It’s not just about winning a contest, either. Actually it’s too complicated for me to understand what it’s about, but I think it might be pretty deep.
Anyway, even if you don’t win Naturalist of the Year, with a reasonable amount of luck you might win VCE’s monthly photo-observation contest. That would be a good stepping stone, right? So head outside and scour Vermont’s “fields and fens, mountains and meadows, lakes and lawns”. Take artistic, scientific or any kind of “wow” photos– maybe an amazing sighting, a neat behavior, or whatever catches your eye and email it to VCE. Their readers will select winning photographs by who gets the most votes.
Let us know if you won by sharing your winning photos on our Facebook. And while you’re over at VCE check out the amazing project that is the Vermont Atlas of Life. It’s a citizen science project cataloging all Vermont’s breeding birds, butterflies, bumble bees, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and more. You’ll be helping to save our endangered species from extinction and making the world a better place!
The Windham County Humane Society, located in Brattleboro, is our area’s most important resource for facilitating pet adoptions. This animal shelter’s mission states, “The Windham County Humane Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the safety and well-being of animals and enhancing the relationship between individuals and pets through adoption, education, advocacy, compassion and promotion of animal welfare.” Volunteerism and donations are vital to the prosperity of the organization, so every year the Windham County Humane Society hold a large fundraiser to help subsidize the cost of running the organization and keeping pets healthy.
The annual Wags to Riches Auction is being held this weekend. This is the largest and most important fundraiser of the year for the humane society. The fundraiser will be held at the Putney Inn on Saturday, March 2, starting at 6PM. There will be great food, great company (make sure to say hi to Peggy, Loryn, and Douglas), and great items to bid on. All of the items at the auction have been donated by local businesses or people in the community. The items vary from something small and practical, like a gift card to the pet store, to something large and luxurious, like an African Safari!
All of the money raised at this event will go directly to the Windham County Humane Society, which will support their programs like low cost spay-neuter clinics. This organization is near to many of our hearts at Vermont Woods Studios, as we are all animals lovers, and many of us have adopted our pets from the humane society.
Tickets cost $40/person, and can be purchased on the humane society’s website, by calling their office, or on March 2nd at the door. Everyone is welcome to join in on the fun, so be sure to bring a friend or two! Click here to visit their website to preview some of the items you can bid on (including our wood cutting board + coasters, and the 3 day weekend at Stratton Mountain that Peggy donated).
If you are unable to attend this event, there are many other ways you can support the Windham County Humane Society. You can make an online, tax-deductible, financial donation or donate items off their wishlist.
When Ken, Kendall, Riley and I started Vermont Woods Studios 7 years ago we had just a vague notion of what this company could be. First and foremost we wanted a green company with a mission of forest conservation. That grew out of the boys’ attachment to Vermont’s natural world, especially it’s wildlife. And my interest in saving the rainforest.
I figured since Ken already had a full time job and the boys were in school, it would take 100% of my time for at least the first 5 years (optimistic and naive, it turns out) to get a new business off the ground. So if I was to have any time with Ken and the boys, it would pretty much have to be within the context of the business. The new company would have to be engaging for all of us.
One of our first ideas was to build and sell wooden bird houses. That satisfied Ken’s woodworking interests and the boys connection to the outdoors. But as we brainstormed lots of different ideas and got more involved with the Vermont woodworking community the concept of partnering with local craftspeople and marketing their Vermont made furniture online evolved.
Well, 7 years later, thanks to the help of Douglas Fletcher (Sales and Customer Service Manager), Dennis Shanoff (Marketing Manager) and the rest of our creative and hard-working staff, Vermont made furniture is now in all 50 states. We’ve come a long way. And we’ve got a long way to go.
Many thanks to all our craftspeople, customers, readers, vendors and cheer leaders. We are grateful for your support.
President Obama’s Limos
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!
Mike Rainville, Leader of Maple Landmark and VWMA
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.
The other morning I received an email from Peggy with the subject line, “a cause near and dear to our hearts.” I suspected immediately that it had to do with animals. Everyone at Vermont Woods Studios has a soft spot for animals, but I think Loryn and I would win the award for biggest bleeding hearts in the office. Ever since we purchased Stonehurst, Loryn and I have actively been trying to persuade Peggy to let us have a few animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, and I think we’ve thrown around the idea of having a horse or two). Although we haven’t quite convinced the whole team of this mini farm idea, Stonehurst will be a sustainable furniture showroom and nature center.
Once I stopped day dreaming about our Stonehurst farm, I opened the email and confirmed my suspicion that the cause had to do with animals. Peggy had sent me this call for help from the Stuck in Vermont Facebook page.
In addition to the call for help, Stuck in Vermont attached a video with the story behind the Gamache family and this cause. Here’s what I learned from the video: Junior and Joyce Gamache have a family-run organic dairy farm in St. Albans, Vermont. The Gamache family has a admirable passion for their animals (cows and cats alike), a passion for staying true to traditional farming, and a passion for their deep Vermont roots. This video made it an easy decision for us to donate to the Gamache barn cat fund; not only because we love cats, but because Vermonters help other Vermonters.
We hope that you’ll take a few minutes to watch the Stuck in Vermont episode about the Gamache family and their barn cats. The Franklin County Humane Society is going to help spay and neuter the Gamache barn cats, but they need to raise money to contribute to the costs. It costs $40 for each cat to get spayed/neutered, but you can contribute any amount via their inlu page. Donations will be accepted until Thursday, February 28th. You can also help spread the word by sharing the Stuck in Vermont’s Facebook post with your friends.
Vermont Custom Furniture Showcased in Stowe
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.
Where Does Your Furniture Come From?
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!