Handmade Fine Furniture & Vermont’s Forest Economy

This past spring the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers was awarded a grant from the Vermont Working Landscape Project, a partnership organization sponsored by the Council on Rural Development. Aimed at preserving the scenic, recreational landscape of Vermont and inspiring growth and support in forest and farm entrepreneurship, the project is a work in progress that will impact all Vermonters. And fine furniture makers–How do we fit in to the working landscape? We’ve devoted this week’s blog post to a selection of handmade and custom pieces that describe our members’ relationship with the forest economy. 
Dave Hurwitz Nautilus End Table
Dave Hurwitz’ Nautilus end table (above) of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified Vermont Sugar Maple  features a custom slate top by Poultney artist Kerry Furlani. Hurwitz has sourced local wood for his contemporary, custom furniture for many years… His figured maples come from Addison, his red elm from Northern Vermont and his cherry, sometimes from a local farm. Guild member Richard Bissell has a solar powered workshop in Putney, a hip, sustainable village on Sacketts Brook in Windham County. Bissell uses as much locally-sourced wood as possible; it’s one of the distinctions of his woodworking practice. “I think Vermonters take good care of their forest, and harvest trees responsibly,” he says, “and I want to support that.” A local Putney sawmill keeps an eye out for really good cherry logs and gives him a holler when they appear on the horizon.
Local Cherry at the Putney Yard & Milled Lumber on it’s way to Bissell Fine Furniture
Is this an insider trend—the lumberyard “pipeline”?  The yardsmen get to know their area craftsmen and eventually, what particular wood or characteristics might be intriguing to them. Doug Clarner tells us that near his studio, Clarner Woodworks in East Burke, his ‘spotters’ watch for great tiger maple or flame birch, and give him the high sign. Other makers, Bissell included, harvest from their own properties. Richard has cut and milled beautiful cherry, aspen, maple and pine from his Putney land and the dresser below was made exclusively from these homestead trees. Sugar Maple panels set in a Cherry case, with Red Maple drawer sides and backs, Aspen drawer bottoms.
Richard Bissell Fine Furniture Custom Homestead Dresser
And design with local wood can go as rustic or as formal as you like. Paul Wilson’s black walnut live edge bench is crafted from wood he’s harvested, dried and milled at his place in Windsor. We can see it in your slate entryway… 
Sometimes a client loses a special tree on their property. You’ve heard it before–summer’s big thunderstorm takes down the old apple tree where the kids have ‘swung’ for generations. Did you know that arrangements can sometimes be made to mill your wood and re-imagine the family tree it into a piece of heirloom furniture? Dorset maker Bill Laberge was asked by a client to turn her own harvested maple into a nine foot trestle table. In addition to the homestead sourcing, Laberge let the character of the wood embellish the table top, complete with tap hole from the tree’s former sugaring days.
William Laberge Cabinetmaker Custom Trestle Table
Why wouldn’t you always go ‘local?’ Sometimes a particular style or design precludes it; maybe the perfect wood type to finish a piece is not readily available in-state. Guild Furniture Makers love the diversity of the species and often, pieces are a mix and match. It’s a beautiful thing to support Vermont’s working landscape by selecting a custom furniture piece made with local wood. Combo pieces can be quite interesting, too, like this Hurwitz hall table featuring a Vermont Curly Maple top with Poplar apron and legs, sourced from the Southeast. Go all Vermont, or some Vermont. Either way you support the working landscape and our tradition of fine, handmade furniture.
Dave Hurwitz Custom Console Table
For Inspiration and Member Work: www.vermontfurnituremakers.com
To Learn More About Vermont’s Working Landscape Initiative: www.workinglands.vermont.gov