New Year’s Resolutions, and Krenov

On Resolutions. Approaching the first blog post of a new year, it seemed there were a couple of obvious options; to recount and recap, or to approach resolutions. With many “best of” lists already going, we chose the latter. But instead of posting about things we plan to avoid, we turn toward our positive ambitions!

the art of being present

“Wherever You Are…” from AbbyHyslop.com

Things like adopting a position of gratitude. Noticing beauty every day. Being more positive. More socially conscious. More environmentally responsible. Encouraging creativity in others. Making time and space for our own. Doing more of the things we love.

Now, if you’re wondering what becoming more centered or present, or what greater happiness or less stress has to do with furniture, we’ve got a proposition for you. Ever thought about what happens when you ignite the energy in your living space? Or when you tone it down? What happens with less versus more? Or handmade versus manufactured? Are you with us?

Where Krenov Fits In. Among our thirty craftsmen, you’ll find a strong representation of Shaker design. A popular style and philosophy, it’s one we’ve explored on the blog in the past. You’ll also find Craftsman-inspired pieces following the Greene Brothers tradition, plus more modern work influenced by mid-century greats like Sam Maloof, Art Carpenter and Wendell Castle.

Then there’s Jim Krenov, standing a bit alone and apart. Although he studied under Malmsten, the father of Scandinavian design, Krenov’s work still feels of his own vernacular, with a deep reverence for the raw materials and an immeasurable devotion to the process of handwork.

American Craftsman James Krenov

James Krenov, photographed by A Taylor, as published in Fine Woodworking

Although it’s tough to align the maker with any of the major American design phases, perhaps he is the “father” of them, too. We’re hard-pressed to find a craftsman more philosophically invested or more purposeful in his work. Invited to lecture about ‘methodology’ to students across America and around the world, Krenov possessed an acute ability to sum up the plight and the adventure of the furniture maker. He produced four wonderful books. The first, A Cabinetmakers Notebook, was published in 1976 and is revered today as one of the most essential and practical introductions to fine woodworking. Probably, every one of our members has a copy in the shop.

The Commercial Desk. Last week, we came across a social media post about a convertible desk from a major on-line manufacturer. A five hundred dollar proposition for a desk (with hydraulics?) that would automatically convert from sitting to standing for the owner. We wondered how many times we could push the button, sending the thing up or down, before it finally quit? Not a crazy thing to consider, right? And for $500 bucks.  And so that, like a dog chasing its tail, got us thinking about Krenov. Here’s an excerpt from his first book…

“We go and search for something for our homes, find what we think we want. Pay a fair price for it, take it home. And then watch it become soiled and dingy, dry and scuffed, too soon overused. Maybe we pay the junk man to come and get it, or we take it to the scrap heap. Then we start all over again. Go to the stores, search, buy again.”

How nonsensical this is, Krenov continues. “… aesthetically or even economically. Over a period of ten years one person may buy, let us say, three or four coffee tables, each one probably costing more than the last. The person does not object to the cost, a market price on each table. He will buy, wear, and throw away, and then go and look for the next and the next.”

And here’s the kicker. The author goes on, “Now suppose we make this same citizen a table out of solid wood that is oil-finished and will last for fifty years or more and grow beautiful as it is being used; that will give off a quality sound when a glass or cup is placed on it.” So the table made by an honest craftsman, with sound design, construction and integrity of process, may cost the consumer little more than two or three times the manufactured alternative. With a host of tangible rewards to boot. That’s the kind of table we make, only we’ll top the half-century and guarantee it for a lifetime.

In the New Year. Of course, the purchase of a piece of handcrafted furniture may not be on your resolutions list, but perhaps there’s something like this?? A commitment to share more, or give more? A commitment to make more purposeful choices? A commitment to honor oneself.

Happy New Year

To honor loved ones? To support our artists and visionaries? To seek a more permanent, renewable, less disposable footprint? To create and care for legacy, act as custodians of family and cultural traditions?

At the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers, we want to know… what do you think your plans will include?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *