Vermont Furniture Makers: Wages and Income

Last updated on October 12th, 2022 at 09:54 pm

Vermont Furniture Makers | Wages and Income Discussion
I took this photo earlier this year of some of the master craftsmen responsible for the best of Vermont Made furniture.  From left:  Bill Laberge, Bob Gasperetti, Steve Holman and Dan Mosheim.  Each has a woodworking shop, quite typical of Vermont’s independent furniture makers.*

One of the best things about running a sustainable furniture business is that our customers are people who care about how we treat the environment and the people we work with.  They’ve come to us because they are willing to pay a premium for high quality, American made furniture that’s crafted from sustainably harvested wood– by furniture makers who are paid a fair, livable wage.

Yesterday we received this note from Wayne J:

I appreciated the description of your commitment to sustainability. I would also like to know how you care for the artisans and trades people who build and ship the furniture. What percentage of the price flows to these people? Are they paid a living wage? What is the ratio of their pay to that of the CEO? Are they making enough to create for themselves safe environments for doing their work. For me to do repeat business at this price point, it will be important to have answers to these questions as well.

These are great questions.  I would ask the same thing if I was a customer and I thought you might be interested in the answers, so I decided to post them here.  I’ll break it down into Compensation and Occupational Safety & Health.

Compensation

Vermont Woods Studios is set up as a marketing and sales company.  We actually don’t build much furniture anymore (we started out with Ken building furniture but as we grew, he couldn’t keep up, so we got him doing the bookkeeping instead).  So we don’t directly employ furniture makers.  We work with independent Vermont furniture makers, either buying furniture wholesale and selling retail or via commission or referral fees.

From the beginning, we set Vermont Woods Studios up as a mission-driven company, that is:  To conserve forests and artistic woodworking while providing our customers with the best selection, value, quality and service available for Vermont made wood furniture.

Because Ken is a woodworker, we are well aware of the amount of time and effort that goes into a piece of handcrafted furniture.  We have a middle ground to walk between helping Vermont furniture companies and craftspeople achieve high quality jobs and providing our customers with the best value for their furniture.  All the while we must compensate our marketing, sales and web development staff as best we can.

As for the CEO’s salary… well that would be mine.  I haven’t actually taken a salary yet, per se.  We are in our 8th year at Vermont Woods Studios and as other small business owners will attest, much of the early years involves investing and rolling profits back into the business, rather than taking a salary.  For now, I am sustained with the knowledge that if we meet our challenge of creating efficiencies in the Vermont furniture making and shipping system, we’ll end up with a win-win-win-win situation: for woodworkers, customers, Vermont Woods Studios employees (including me) and the environment.

Occupational Safety and Health

Vermont has the highest environmental standards of any state in the nation.  As for the safety and health of the woodworkers that craft furniture for Vermont Woods Studios, I believe all the companies we work with (both large and small) go above and beyond federal and state OSHA and EPA regulations.  Prior to starting this company I worked in environmental and occupational health and safety for 20+ years, with my most recent work in this occupation was at Tulane’s Center for Applied Environmental Public Health.  That experience, plus the fact that Ken has an active woodworking shop gives me confidence in my assessment of the safety and health protections our woodworking partners employ.  I do realize that we have to take a more active role in documenting safety, health and sustainability compliance amongst our partners in the future, though.

If you’re interested in additional details regarding sustainability, livable wages and worker safety at Vermont Woods Studios, please browse through our fine furniture website to learn about:

and give me a call or email me to suggest ways for us to continually improve.

* Not all of our craftspeople have their own businesses.  Many work for larger companies, like Copeland Furniture.  Read more about sustainability and the treatment of craftspeople at Copeland Furniture here.

considered proprietary information

according tothe Vermont Department of Labor, the average annual salary for a Vermont woodworker is $ 32,440

http://www.vtlmi.info/oic3.cfm?occcode=51709900#wage

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Love Wood Furniture? Learn 3 Ways to Save America’s Hardwoods

Last updated on October 12th, 2022 at 09:46 pm

Hardwood Furniture | Saving Our Maple Trees | Sustainable Forestry in Vermont
The little red dot in the middle of these hardwood trees, is Ken–  pruning the maples today.  Our mission at Stonehurst Fine Wood Furniture is founded on forest conservation.  We need your help in saving hardwood trees from an epidemic of infestations.

Hard wood furniture lovers, beware!  At this very moment, armies of invasive bugs and diseases are on the prowl, hunting down your favorite maple, oak, cherry, walnut and other backyard trees to turn them into food and bedding for their young.

Asian Longhorn Beetle

Asian Longhorn Beetle | How to Identify it on Your Hardwood TreesFaith talks about the dreaded Asian Longhorn Beetle ALB, one of many non-native insects and diseases that have been brought to America accidentally by way of imported plants or in crates and pallets.  Vermont’s iconic maples, along with elms, ash, and oaks are a favorite home to these large, shiny, black and white beetles from Asia.

The entire Northern hardwood forest is at risk and if we can’t get people like you to help fight back,  48 million acres in the United States plus the majority of Canada’s hardwood forests could be destroyed.  Also at risk are shade trees along city streets and in backyards all across the country. The ALB could kill up to two thirds of urban trees if it becomes established!

 

 

3 Things You Can Do to Save Our Hardwoods

There are many ways you can help keep invasive killer bugs and diseases from destroying our hardwoods.  Here are some suggestions from VermontInvasives.org

  • Buy Local Firewood– Tree killing insects and diseases can lurk in firewood. Don’t move invasives to new areas on firewood
  • Educate yourself, your friends, your coworkers, and your family about how to look for invasive pests.  Here’s a look at the top invasives in Vermont
  • Take photos and report anything you find to your state agricultural, natural resources, or forestry agency

By working together can we fight the killer bugs that threaten our forests, our food supplies, our waters and the thousands of jobs dependent on them.  You can help stop the spread and protect the natural resources you love.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Settling in at Stonehurst

Last updated on August 2nd, 2013 at 02:25 pm

The view at Stonehurst
The view behind Stonehurst

The woods that surround Stonehurst make it a hotspot for local wildlife, and a favorite part of the new location for many of us. From wild turkeys roaming openly in the field, to our new porcupine friend, to the neighborhood chipmunks, squirrels, and birds that call this place their home—we are excited to be a part of this wonderful eco-community.

Now that we are getting settled, it’s great to see that many of us are forming a bond with different parts of Stonehurst. You can find Kendall walking around out back enjoying the mountain fresh air, Neville and Martin outside enjoying the scenery, while Dennis is always the first to volunteer to checkup on the families of birds who have occupied the birdhouses we put up earlier in the year. Needless to say, we all care about it here for one reason or another, and that’s what makes this place so special.  

The stone wall behind stonehurst, headquarters for Vermont Woods Studios
Stone Wall on back side of Stonehurst

Stonehurst allows us to “tell the story of where your furniture comes from,” Peggy explains. “People can look out the windows and stroll around the grounds to see and experience what sustainable forestry is… we can use our learning wall to show people how their choice of furniture affects the habitats of endangered species.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Vermont Woods Studios was created with the inspiration to help put an end to the deforestation of the world’s rainforest’s. “Every species of big cat (lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc) and every species of primates (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc) is critically endangered due to habitat loss,” Peggy revealed, “and many of those habitats are forests that are being illegally decimated for timber that goes into imported furniture.”

Stonehurst, to us, is more than just our headquarters—it is a reflection of our impact on the natural landscape. We want to show people that by living consciously and shopping ethically, it is possible to live (and thrive) without harming the ecosystem, and that we can live harmoniously with our friends in nature, rather than endangering them by destroying their homes and habitats.  

           Besides the woods that surround Stonehurst, and the animals that inhabit them, the building itself has quite an interesting story. Stonehurst started out as a farmhouse circa 1800, and has “moved through various identities as a boarding house, 4 season resort, ski area, and residential home,” Peggy explains, “Stonehurst has been transformed several times, just as our business has transformed.” And despite all of the transformation, we’ve worked hard to preserve much of its history wherever possible. Plus, all local materials were used in its renovation, adding to its Vermont roots. “The resulting space feels like a natural home to us, said Peggy,  “a place where we can enjoy our work while finding success in accomplishing our mission.”

The Vermont Woods Studios team
The whole team gathered for our first group photo at Stonehurst

           When asked about their vision of the future for Vermont Woods Studios at Stonehurst, the team had differing answers with a common theme… We would all like to see Stonehurst busy as ever, with a thriving community of happy customers raving about their furniture and excited to be brand advocates for us and for our mission. We envision “people coming from near and far to get an up close look (and feel) at the best handcrafted furniture made in Vermont,” as Martin revealed, while Dennis would like to see people coming to Vermont not only to visit Stonehurst and see our furniture, but to experience all of the culture and activities that the state has to offer as well.  Peggy is hoping to see a relaxed and efficient staff, excited to learn new things and making creative strides every day… plus lots more automation and continued rapid growth. Stonehurst will bring the team closer, and allow us to work more effectively and creatively together… and will also give us more opportunities to have fun! (Liz is really looking forward to future taco parties). Most importantly, however, Peggy explains that we “want to see evidence that we are raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.”

           The move to Stonehurst has been a major transformation for us, and we are excited to see what the future has in store. With a handful of wonderful memories already created here– from happy hours in front of the wood stove in Ken’s shop, to physically helping with the planning and construction of the building, to watching a lone porcupine roam our field… we have high hopes and expectations for our future here. Our sign is finally up out front, signalling the end of the “making of” portion of our Stonehurst story–a chapter we are happy to leave behind. Now, its really time to get to work!


PS. We’ve created a Pinterest board for Stonehurst! Pin us 🙂


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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Is Your Wood Furniture Brought to You by Organized Crime?

Last updated on September 29th, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Luxury Furniture | Avoiding Global Rainforest Destruction | Choosing Sustainable American Made Furniture
Organized crime is currently responsible for an unprecedented rate of rainforest destruction.  Unchecked illegal logging is rampant in tropical countries too poor to effectively monitor and enforce conservation regulations.  You can help save the rainforest by avoiding the purchase of imported forest products like wood furniture and flooring.

Forest conservation is at the heart of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios and we’re always trying to raise awareness about where your wood furniture comes from.  If you’re committed to buying American made furniture— no worries.  Chances are it’s made from legal wood, sustainably harvested from well-managed forests right here in North America.

But if you’re buying imported wood furniture (70% of furniture sold in America is imported) then: Houston, we have a problem.

A recent Washington Post article by Brad Plumer entitled Organized Crime is Getting Rich Cutting Down the Rainforest describes how the illegal logging trade has become just as lucrative (and far more destructive) than the drug-trafficking industry.  50 to 90 percent of forestry in tropical areas is now controlled by criminal groups!  “A great deal of logging simply takes place illegally — much of it in tropical areas such as the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia.” (ref: United Nations and Interpol)

The U.N. estimates that illicit logging is now worth between $30 billion to $100 billion, or up to 30 percent of the global wood trade.  That illegal wood is often shipped from pristine rainforests to China, Vietnam and other third world countries where it’s fabricated into low quality furniture which is sold to US consumers. We’ve written quite a bit about the links between rainforest destruction, global warming and the furniture and flooring you choose for your home:

If you’re considering buying furniture at IKEA, Home Depot or any big box store… ask where the lumber originates and let us know what you find on our Facebook or in the comments section below.  Then re-discover sustainable, American made wood furniture and join us in feeling good about your furniture and your green home.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont

Last updated on August 15th, 2018 at 04:53 pm

Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont

 

If you’re familiar with our company, the name Renfrew may ring a bell, because of our Renfrew Shaker Furniture Collection. But, do you know the history behind the collection name? We like to name some of our collections after Vermont conservation heroes, and Dr. Rosalind Renfrew, or as she likes to be called, Roz, is one of them. Roz is a dedicated wildlife biologist in Vermont, and her name has been popping up in the local news recently. She is the editor for the Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont, a comprehensive publication that came out this month.

This second edition publication has taken many years of research to complete. For ten years the Vermont Center for Eco Studies and a number of volunteers from all over the state surveyed the same land that was surveyed in 1985 when the first edition came out. The goal of this publication was to focus on population patterns, rather than the reasons for change. In addition, this atlas includes, “a guide to the biogeography of Vermont; and essays on change in habitats, climate, land use and their impact on Vermont’s bird communities over the past quarter century.” This comprehensive wildlife atlas is 576 pages! Inside you will find photographs, maps, charts and graphs.

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont will be a great reference for hobby birders as well as conservationists. This large, extensive book is available for purchase through the publisher’s website for $75. There will be 150 of the books donated to libraries across Vermont, so that everyone can have access to the information.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

We’re Not The Only Ones Getting A New Home!

Last updated on November 14th, 2018 at 04:31 pm

Blue Bird Nesting Box
We used the lumber from one of the “hazardous trees” we had to cut down to make blue bird nesting boxes.

When we first purchased Stonehurst, it was evident that about six different trees needed to be removed, as they were much too close to the house. Not wanting them to go to waste, we sawed what we could into lumber and trimmed the rest for fire wood. One of the trees was a Norway Spruce, so Ken didn’t have his eye on it for furniture. So, we decided it would be perfect lumber to make some bird nesting boxes. We called in the help of Vince Johnson, of Vernon, who set up his portable sawmill on site. He was able to get a good amount out of that Spruce tree and we had plenty for our project.

Part of Stonehurst is potentially creating a nature center and we will always look for ways to preserve the natural habitat for all the native species on the property. With Stonehurst having a fair amount of open fields, it is a perfect habitat for the Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallows, both cavity nesters. Also, the field edges would make a good spot for some Black Capped Chickadee nest boxes.

We found a bluebird nesting box plan and some members of the Green Team took over Ken’s workshop. We made a bunch of nesting boxes for the bluebirds, but ran out of time for the chickadees, so that’s something that we will get back to. The next step is to get out to the fields to mount these in just the right places. We want to get them up before the end of March, which is typically the time these species start to look for a nesting place. We will report on that in the coming weeks as well as keep you updated as these nest boxes become occupied.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Alaska Delivery Puts Vermont Made Furniture In All 50 States

Last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Vermont Made Furniture is in Alaska, Hawaii and Across America
Vermont Made Furniture is now in Alaska, Hawaii and 48 other states across America.  We are thankful to Douglas Fletcher (VWS Sales and Customer Service manager), Dennis Shanoff (Marketing Manager) and the rest of our creative and hard-working staff for making that happen.

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.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Forest Conservation in Vermont

Last updated on May 3rd, 2018 at 04:19 pm

Forest Conservation in Vermont
Vermonters are serious about forest conservation.  It’s not just because the Green Mountain Forest makes a $1 billion contribution to our economy.  Or that the forest industry provides 9% of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales and employment for over 6000 Vermonters.  It’s also that Vermonters love the wildlife and recreation the forest provides.

Vermont is the Green Mountain state and trust me, Vermonters are serious about forest conservation.  If you live in New York or Boston or another metropolitan area you might be surprised though to learn that we have to fight hard every day to keep our forests clean, green and intact.

Dennis and I were at a meeting of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association last week and as always, forest conservation was high on the list of topics for discussion.  Vermont furniture companies are working on creating a chain of custody for their furniture so customers will be able to trace it back from the furniture maker to the forest where it was sustainably harvested.

You may be thinking: “why do Vermonters think forest conservation is so important?”  Well it’s not just because the Green Mountain Forest makes a $1 billion contribution to our economy.  Or that the forest industry provides 9% of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales and employment for over 6000 Vermonters.  It’s also that Vermonters love the wildlife and recreation the forest provides.

We see how forests are being decimated in tropical countries like Brazil, the DR Congo and Indonesia and we’re determined to do what we can to conserve forests (both our temperate forests and rainforests) for future generations.  Here is  just a short list of Vermont organizations working on the mission of forest conservation:

Another forest conservation group– one near to my heart, is the Vermont Center for Eco Studies. Researchers there are working to conserve habitat for our state’s migrating songbirds.  As such their conservation efforts span both our temperate Vermont forests and the rainforest of the Dominican Republic where our state bird the Bicknell’s Thrush winters.

Learn more about forest conservation and  how it fits into our mission at Vermont Woods Studios on our website.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Wooden Furniture and Rainforest Conservation

Last updated on June 22nd, 2022 at 09:54 am

Saving the Rainforest | Sustainable Wooden Furniture and Flooring | What's the Connection?
Global rainforest destruction continues to proceed at a rate of > 1 acre per second.  It’s the greatest extinction in the history of the earth.  Once the rainforest is gone, it’s gone forever.  It doesn’t regenerate like our northern temperate forests.  Interested in conserving the rainforest and preserving the iconic species who’ve lived there for millions of years?  Learn how your choices for furniture, flooring and other forest products can help.

Where Does Your Wooden Furniture Come From?

Ever wonder where your wooden furniture comes from?  Seven years ago I founded Vermont Woods Studios because I didn’t like the answer to that question.  And the answer is:  if you didn’t  purchase American made furniture, yours may well have originated in a beautiful tropical rainforest that was being plundered by illegal logging activities.

One Acre of Rainforest Disappears Every Second

I spent the first few years at Vermont Woods Studios trying to raise awareness about rainforest devastation and how it’s driven by the wood furniture and flooring industries.  Did you know that the rainforest is disappearing at the rate of >1 acre every second?  It sounds unbelievable and sensationalist, doesn’t it?  I mean that’s over 4000 football fields every hour of every.  But it’s true and that fact is why we continue to work so hard to offer sustainable, locally made furniture at this Vermont furniture store.

You and I Have the Power to Save the Rainforest

Consumers of wood furniture, flooring and other forest products are the key to saving the rainforest.  If you’re taking the trouble to learn about sustainable wooden furniture and how you, as a consumer, can be part of the global solution, we want to help.  I’ll be writing a series of blogs over the next few months to provide some background information regarding the past, present and future of the rainforest and how we consumers can do our part to save it.  Have any rainforest references or stories you’d like to share?  Join the conversation on our Facebook.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Stonehurst Update: All Permits Good to Go!

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018 at 02:18 pm

Stonehurst Act 250 Permit ready
The state of Vermont has cleared the way for renovations to begin at Stonehurst (our sustainable furniture showroom and nature center) by issuing an environmental (Act 250) permit, a water and wastewater permit and a building permit.  Together with supporting documentation, the 3 permits create a stack of paper about a foot high.

Act 250, Water and Building Permits Good to Go

Woohoo!  After 5 months of working through engineering and architectural plans for our sustainable Vermont furniture showplace, we have finally been approved by the state of Vermont to begin renovations at Stonehurst.  YAY!  It’s really not so easy renovating an historic property for commercial use in Vermont but we think it’s worth the trouble.

Vermont requires three permits for this kind of endeavor:  a detailed environmental assessment called the Act 250 permit, a water and wastewater permit and a building permit.  Together with supporting documentation, the three permits create a stack of paper about a foot high, requiring an army of expert consultants to complete them.  And we’re not done.  There are many caveats and contingencies that will have to be satisfied as we progress.  Ken and I never imagined this extreme when we purchased the building.  It was our architect, Jeremy Coleman who walked us through the maze of bureaucracy and red tape and patiently explained the codes and our compliance options.

Vermont’s Complex Building Regulations

At first we were in disbelief at the overwhelming extent of requirements and expense to comply with Vermont’s complex codes.  There are several government agencies to deal with and get approval from.  Sometimes they are at odds with each other.  But as we finally get to a point where our plans have been approved and renovations can begin I guess we are beginning to see some method to the madness.

Stonehurst is Worth the Trouble

After all Vermont is a very special place for nature lovers and we want it to always stay that way.  Detailed environmental and building regulations help to ensure that.  Like many Vermont businesses, Vermont Woods Studios is built on a green mission.  Ours is forest conservation and environmental preservation, so (in spite of the high cost of regulations) I can’t imagine finding a more suitable home for it than Stonehurst in Vernon, Vermont.

Stay tuned for more updates on our sustainable furniture showroom over the next couple months and plan to visit us for an open house in the early summer.  Till then keep updated by subscribing to this blog or visiting our Facebook.

See you at the Grand Opening (TBA)!

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.