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?
Today a new ten year strategic plan for Vermont's wood furniture (and other wood products) industry was unveiled by the Vermont Wood Products Marketing Council. The 2020 Vision For The Vermont Wood Products Industry provides a roadmap for our $1.8 Billion wood products industry in VT to capitalize on the state's reputation as the Fine Furniture Capital of America.
At Vermont Woods Studios Furniture we hope to be a major player in the industry's growth. We believe that American home owners are increasingly looking for sustainabilty, quality and authenticity in their home furnishings. That puts Vermont in an excellent marketing position as our furniture makers have consistently focused on those attributes for 200 years, producing a superior, high quality product at affordable prices.
Conversely, the vast majority of American furniture has been outsourced to Asia for the past 30-40 years in favor of cheap production. However as customers grow ever more weary of low-quality, imported furniture that's a health risk to their families, Vermont's tradition of quality workmanship and natural, sustainable materials will be important in rejuvenating the American furniture industry. And our woodworking community's ethic of collaboration rather than competition will be instrumental in leading the path forward.
We extend our thanks to the Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association for making this report possible and look forward to working with our friends throughout the industry to get it implemented.
2011 marks 15 years since the Vermont Fine Furniture and Wood Products Design Competition began as a modest idea back in 1996. With Vermont being the Fine Furniture Capital of America it was felt that we needed additional venues to showcase the beauty and diversity of Vermont's wooden wares and the people who create them.
Although Vermont is perhaps most famous for our high end, luxury, custom studio furniture, the design competition is set up to include all types of Vermont woodworkers in areas such as: carvings, sculptural, production furniture, turnings, jewlery, kitchen accessories and more. Entries are separated into students and professionals and can be submitted here.
We've had the pleasure and privilege of attending all of the design competitions and the concurrent Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festivals over the years and I have to say they keep getting better every year. Many of our friends and colleagues have been awarded prizes including Robin Chase, Arthur Weitzenfeld, Daniel Omondi, Rick Schneider, Breeze Verdant and others.
Both the design contest and the furniture festival take place annually at the Union Arena in Woodstock, VT and this year the date is September 24-25, 2011.
If you're a Vermont woodworker you HAVE to check it out. And if you're looking to purchase fine handmade furniture or just spend a day running your fingers across it, mark your calendar now. You'll be glad you did.