The Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers is always looking for new members. Recently, a Journeyman level was added, in addition to the existing Master level furniture maker, to expand the options available to interested prospective members.
If you’ve ever thought about making furniture professionally and wondered what the benefits were, we have got you covered. We asked existing members what they thought was awesome about the Guild and why they wanted to be a part of it. A few aspects of Guild membership stuck out and here they are in no particular order.
The Guild is home to some of the most talented furniture makers in Vermont. Matthew Ogelby said, “Initially, as a furniture maker who was early in his career, I sought to be a Journeyman in the Guild as an extension of my education.”
David Boynton added, “We’ve recently added a “Journeyman” level membership for the benefit of talented woodworkers just getting established as professionals. We look forward to bringing them in as full ‘Master’ members as the pieces come together for them. Hopefully, the Guild can help expedite that process.”
Sometimes, education comes in ways you don’t always expect. For example, learning the importance of multimedia marketing. “Prior to joining the Guild, all my marketing was with established clients or by word-of-mouth,” Boynton said. “I had no website at all. Oops.”
The Guild is a group of truly special talent. Ogelby said, “Attend any Guild meeting and the collective talent and knowledge in the room is pretty amazing. And as a bonus, they’re all standout human beings – more than willing to share experience, technique and ideas with each other and new members.”
Working with your hands with natural materials is amongst the most rewarding experiences of our members’ lives. But being an artisan with your own business or as a part of a small business of woodworkers can have a trade-off as well — it can be lonely.
“As furniture makers, I think we tend to be pretty solitary animals in our daily work,” Boynton explained. “Most of us run small operations, and we are in the shop alone or, perhaps, with a couple of co-workers. That’s the good news and the bad news. While we’re certainly aware of the wider woodworking world, not many will see a piece of furniture they like, pick up the phone, call the maker and ask about their design approach…or opinion on CNC technology, or finishing technique, or shop insurance…you get the picture. The Guild gives Vermont furniture makers access to an expanded community in which to have those conversations (and many more!) with other seasoned professionals.”
John Lomas agrees. “The quarterly meetings are fun and informative. I am always impressed by the willingness to share techniques, resources and vendors in a spirit of friendship, even though we are competitors at some level.”
Chris Ericson added, “At our meetings, I get to sit in a room full of amazingly talented and generous people who are there to share knowledge, camaraderie, good humor…I always leave a meeting feeling recharged.”
It elevates the local scene
Because the members become part of a community, it elevates Vermont woodworkers as a whole. They share ideas and are able to ascend to new heights in their craft. “As an organization, I think it raises the bar for the craft of woodworking,” Olgeby said.
Lomas thinks the Guild helps establish Vermont as an industry leader. “Vermont has a deep connection to the craft of furniture making, which can be traced back more than 200 years. These days, from sugar making to furniture making, Vermont is still highly regarded as a source for high quality handmade products. The Guild plays an important role in preserving our state’s image as a leader and a source for excellent craftsmanship.”
Ericson feels the same way. “It seems to me Vermont is recognized for quality. We’re extremely lucky to live in a place so rife with artists, craftspeople, forests, farms…. The Guild is a natural extension of this, people who care about quality, integrity, and creating things with soul.”
Ogelby explains that “the presence of the Guild is important for the same reasons I’ve found it rewarding. I’ve been inspired by other members in many ways – from refining my designs, to improving my business.” Ericson echoes, “I’m greatly inspired by the work of other members, and simply being part of the Guild has made me strive to continue to improve my craft.”
The Guild supports its members in more than technique and woodworking. Marketing efforts to promote member work is carried out daily.
Boynton says, “The Guild has presented me with opportunities I otherwise would not have had, of this I am certain. Inclusion in the website alone has been a big advantage for me. Fully forty percent of my site visits are referred through the Guild website!”
Ericsson has found business success, too. “There is the tangible, direct benefit of customers who have found me through Guild shows or our website.”
Lomas even had a current example, “Here’s a piece I’m making right now – a direct result of a Guild lead.”
He added, “The guild has been a tremendous benefit, both as a community of kindred spirits, and as a sales venue.”
If you’re interested in Guild membership for yourself or someone you know, please visit the application page and good luck!