Shop Talk: Inside a Guild Gathering

In medieval days, like-minded craftsmen of a particular trade gathered together to form guilds. The guilds defined standards of quality and price for a particular handmade product. Members shared information and knowledge among themselves, sometimes in a cloistered way, to preserve the secrets of their craft. And they looked after and advocated for one another in their communities.

Modern craft guilds are still predicated on quality and character of work. As an association of master craftsmen, the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers provides a forum for collaboration and artistic and technical development. And our clients benefit, as we do, from the sum, shared experience of our thirty makers. And we, too, keep track of one another. Kind of goes with the territory.

Vermont Guild of Furniture Makers Get Together

In part, our mission is aimed at increasing public awareness and appreciation of a time honored craft and promoting the common interests of furniture makers in Vermont. The creative life is as challenging as it is rewarding and we support one another by gathering together throughout the year.

The Guild is fortunate to have a revolving group of officers who keep the business of budgets, membership and marketing on track. When we gather together to discuss these details, one of our members extends his or her shop and invites us in. This month we met in Randolph at Dave Hurwitz’ place. No slouch in the ‘hospitality’ department, Dave served up Vermont cider, hot coffee, morning snacks and lunch—all the fuel a furniture maker needs to get through to the good stuff. The real nitty gritty — shop talk, demos and news from the trade.

Vermont Furniture Makers Share Knowledge & Local Snacks

In advance, we generally agree on topics of interest. We had a fantastic discussion on drawings and members presented different approaches and tools. Illustrating the project is a key component of the design process as it works out between maker and client. When the client is able to see and agree to the design, it goes a long way toward ensuring a happy outcome.

Sketch Up 3D for Furniture Design

Tim Clark (Waltham) and Richard Bissell (Putney) gave presentations on the CAD systems they use in their workshops. A wide array of CAD (computer-aided design) software is available for furniture makers these days. After AutoCad came ArchiCad, Works 3D and applications like SketchUp, which Richard likes. Tim’s drawings for his Agnew Huntboard, below.

Design Process of a Fine Furniture Maker

Dave followed up with an ‘analog’ presentation, hand-drawing one of his taffy mirrors for the crew.

Taffy Mirror Drawing, David Hurwitz

Of course, we always save room for a little fun. In a moment of jest, Richard posed for a ‘classic’ furniture maker’s portrait in front of Dave’s wall cabinet of hand tools. It is perfect! He said, “those that know a thing or two about woodworking will probably note that the compass plane is not correctly adjusted.” If you know a furniture maker or two, you’ll get the irony in the joke. They are a rather exacting bunch.

Hand Tools for Fine Furniture Making

And so ends another day in Vermont and another Guild gathering. ‘The drive home’ below, a shot along the highway as Chris Ericson made the trek back to South Newfane.

Vermont Drive in the Winter

Of course, as we get back to work armed with new and good information and a sense of camaraderie, we’re looking forward to the next one. It’ll be fiddlehead season by then!


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