Beyond the Wood: Collaborating Artists & Fine Furniture

Vermont has always been a pioneering state where a challenging and remarkable landscape is matched by the fortitude and inventiveness of its people. The same forests and fields that provide a livelihood for farmers and craftsmen have inspired generations of artists and writers to live, work and create here.

Vermont Wooded Landscape

Alex Aldrich, Director of the Vermont Arts Council, is often asked to ‘define the current state of the arts’ and his response has been simply…“Vermont.” Ranking among the top five in artists per capita, the Green Mountain State also lays claim to the nation’s first State Craft Center (Frog Hollow). Today the Studio Center in Johnson boasts the largest residency program for artists and writers in the country. With so much talent and creativity populating such small territory, one might say Vermont is just ‘ripe’ for collaboration.

Two members of our Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers have received recognition for fine furniture pieces they’ve designed and built in concert with other talented Vermont artisans. The feeling and energy of the pieces are apparent in the photographs below but we’ve included a little detail about the makers and their processes.

Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers Sideboard by Clarner Woodworks

Doug Clarner of Clarner Woodworks makes heirloom Shaker furniture but incorporates elements borrowed from Arts & Crafts and Japanese design traditions. To create this award-winning sideboard, he partnered with North East Kingdom lighting design expert and artist Trenny Robb. Robb works a shop and studio called High Beams with her partner and husband. There, the two produce one of a kind copper and brass lighting fixtures.

Custom Furniture Detail Mica Panels

Clarner designed this anchor piece with graceful, straightforward lines and a single board cherry top. He added subtle walnut details to complement the mica panels designed by Robb. Each panel contains a pressed branch of Japanese Thread Leaf Maple, back-lit to accentuate the rich and delicate botanical pattern. Even when the piece is quiet (and the lights are turned off) it makes a statement. Measuring 34” tall by 50” wide by 15” deep, it can be a grounding piece in an interior landscape that will be unmatched in distinction and character. The sideboard brought a first place finish in the 2010 Vermont Fine Furniture Design Competition. Both Clarner and Robb vowed to work together again and we’re anxious for it!

Hand carving a slate table topSome Vermonters will tell you that the land is always giving back. In the case of artist Kerry Furlani, it gives back and gets celebrated. Furlani says she came to Vermont to work in marble but was surprised and inspired by a simple piece of slate. Furlani and Guild member David Hurwitz love to work with materials from their immediate surroundings.

Hurwitz’ reverence for a healthy landscape and responsibly harvested wood combines with his talent and original vision to define his maker style. Critics and clients call Dave’s work ‘visceral,’ ‘artistically smart’ and ‘eye-opening.’  He designs and builds custom furniture pieces, one at a time, in his Randolph studio. And he’s partnered with stone carver Furlani on more than one occasion.

The end table featured here shows off a hand-carved purple & greenish butterfly atop an internal steel support and carved Vermont cherry legs.

Hurwitz unique custom end table

Furlani does all of her bas relief carving by hand with mallets and chisels, a process that connects her energy to the piece and places her in a long and historic craft tradition. She finds slate in quarries, streams and fields and her carvings, like Hurwitz’ custom fine furniture, exemplify and channel organic forms. Dave told us the challenge with this particular piece was deciding what kind of base would work best with the butterfly. “I wanted to accentuate her carving, not make it look static,” said the furniture maker. And so the six cherry legs with their subtle logic and sense of movement came to be.

Vermont Slate Table by David Hurwitz of Randolph

Hurwitz and Furlani have worked on similar custom furniture designs together. Their Nautilus table has been featured in several craft and design publications.

To contact the featured furniture makers, or to see other examples of their work, please visit their respective portfolios linked from the ‘Members’ section of our website. You can find out more about their collaborating artists here: www.highbeams.com and www.kerryofurlani.com.

Kudos to our craftsmen for reaching outside the world of wood and finding great success. Both pieces–made by hand in Vermont with a keen interest in the landscape–are currently available.

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