Long ago the path to becoming a furniture maker was direct — those wishing to learn the trade apprenticed to a master. Unfortunately, with school shop classes all but eliminated and fewer fathers or uncles tinkering in the basement, there are no longer as many sparks to ignite a passion for working wood. Mentoring has proven to be a powerful path to fast forward this small but determined next generation of makers, by matching them to a seasoned maker. During the past two years, well-known furniture maker, author, and teacher Garrett Hack has been mentoring emerging makers in his shop in Thetford Center, Vermont. The fruits of their labors will be showcased in the next Furniture Masters Gallery exhibition, Fast Forward: Mentoring Makers. The exhibition will be on view September 13-November 12, 2013 at the NHFMA gallery, located at 49 S. Main Street in Concord. An opening reception will be held on Friday, October 4 from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
These nine makers, most in their early 30s, travel from across Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to Hack’s shop once a month to talk about issues of design, technique, working with clients, or any other topics that come up. They are: Thomas Latourelle (Norwich, VT), Ken Zahn (Bow Center, NH), Jeremy Zietz (Shrewsbury, VT), Pete Michelinie (Bridgewater, VT), Chris Bowlen (Dorset, VT), Alicia Dietz (Richmond, VT), Brian McAlpine (Boston, MA), and Oliver Strand (Boston, MA). There is no cost to the students other than a commitment to be there and to contribute to the group. They come with varied skills, but each is, or wants to be, a professional. Their focus is on a specific piece they build during the year, which encourages discussion and specific demonstrations of skills they want to master.
“Some excellent private woodworking schools try to fill this void,” Furniture Master Garrett Hack observes, “but their costs, along with expenses for wood and even the basic tools, put them well beyond the reach of a maker starting out.” A few of these makers have been to formal schools such as North Bennet Street School in Boston or the Vermont Woodworking School in northwestern Vermont, Hack explains, while school shop class, work as carpenters, or a chance job with a furniture maker has inspired others. Their backgrounds are diverse; one maker was in the Army for 10 years and flew helicopters in Iraq; another worked and studied in Japan; and yet another pursued a successful career in business. “All of them shared a need to be creative and work with their hands,” Hack notes. “This mentoring opportunity has not only taught them new skills, but also given them the opportunity to become part of a small and supportive community.”
Pictured: Coffee Table in Ebonized Ash by Alicia Dietz
Photo courtesy of Amanda Lass