We asked Jim Becker to describe his personal approach to woodworking and the response was really simple. In three neat, powerful words he replied, “Lines and Arcs.” As an association of master level craftsmen, Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers members adhere to a shared standard of excellence in design and fabrication. As well, member makers are dedicated to the pursuit of artistic vision and it is within this space that their personal styles emerge.
“My designs tend to be simplifications of other styles, the Shakerization of all I see,” explained Becker. The furniture maker referred to his ‘Ming Shaker’ collection, which combines eastern elements with early American style. His Windsor ‘vernacular’ pieces are beautiful and traditional but with a contemporary emotion. In addition to original work, Becker spends a great deal of time on custom designs for clients. He’s an adept craftsman and a fantastic listener, with visible reverence for period craftsmanship. Each year he handles a number of reproduction pieces, making copies of antiques or adaptations of them.
Don’s Desk is emblematic of Becker’s ‘Ming Shaker’ collection, with graceful Shaker lines and oriental influence. A handsome work in hardwood. the desk’s detail includes a repeating arc from console to base that makes it really distinctive. Pictured here in Cherry, with Birdseye Maple drawer fronts and top panels, and ebonized Walnut pulls.
This contemporary Windsor Bench is crafted with cherry bow, seat and stretchers, ash spindles and figured maple legs. Winning accolades from Brooklyn-based designer Paul Loebach and featured in the New York Times, the bench is available in alternate lengths and woods. Loebach praised the custom seating piece for its ability to pull off “the really challenging task of updating something very classic.”
Jim describes his ‘Cylinder Desk’ (featured below) as a ‘most memorable project’ with considerable time in both design and production.
“Someone from Hawaii emailed asking if I could build a cylinder desk. He also sent a series of photographs of two period pieces, one of which was the inspiration for this desk. I designed this cylinder desk with more contemporary dimensions than the original allowing for standard file drawers if requested and for accommodation of a contemporary office chair. The desk is constructed of cherry with ebony drawer pulls. The work surface pulls out for writing and is pushed back when the desk is closed.”
Perhaps the craftsman’s penchant for strong and graceful lines was, in part, inspired by his earliest woodworking experience. It began in the mid-coast town of Friendship, Maine. The Lash Brothers Company was a family-owned operation crafting fishing boats, sloops and sailing vessels by hand with traditional methods since the early 1900s. Today Jim’s got 25 years of custom furniture making under his belt. He currently works out of Guild Member Joe Breznick’s Londonderry Shop and you can make an appointment to visit him there. Try for a day when Joe’s in and enjoy their camaraderie and experience.
When asked about the future of woodcraft, Becker gave a nod to Vermont Woodworking School. “I hope Vermont will continue to have the highest number of furniture makers per capita,” he said. “And with organizations like VWS, I hope some of these young craftspeople will stay here, join our Guild and continue to grow the community.”
For more of Jim’s work, visit his portfolio on our website. Let us know which piece of the craftsman’s work is your new favorite!