The Furniture Society will hold its 15th annual conference July 21-23 in conjunction with the AWFS fair at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. It's a first for the studio furniture makers' group, which usually conducts a stand-alone conference at college settings across the country.
As part of their registration fee, attendees will have entry to the year's biggest woodworking industry event and to the AWFS College of Woodworking Knowledge educational seminars.
"What we're trying to do is appeal to a much larger audience at AWFS - it's an enormous show and it's exciting for us to be a part of it," says Kern Maass, the conference program coordinator and a woodworking instructor at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
Members are eagerly anticipating how the conference format will compare to a traditional Furniture Society conference, which usually focuses on an educational theme germane to the setting.
"Last summer I attended IWF and it was an exciting show. Now I'm anxious to see AWFS and I'm particularly interested in attending the College of Woodworking Knowledge and seeing how the sessions will relate to my small shop," says Andrew Pitts of Heathsville, Va., who is a conference regular. "Although I know there will be a lot of focus on larger production operations, I'm always picking up nuggets of information that I can apply to my one-person woodshop."
Plans for a keynote speaker, gallery exhibitions and a member reception are still in the works. However, Maass is enthusiastic about a new design program.
"We will be using a design charrette to show design tools and the design process in a hands-on collaborative process. We are planning this to be a two-hour design sprint to include a design brief, examples, tips and full-size constructed volume studies."
Furniture Society president Andy Glantz describes the upcoming conference as the crossroads where art meets technology.
"Our members will not only have access to everything that's on the floor, but also the College of Woodworking Knowledge that AWFS has. Largely, I don't see our members attending the big trade shows because they think it's all just gigantic machinery and it's not. It's a great opportunity to see things large and small and to learn."
Furniture Society member Jamie Yocono lives in Las Vegas, where he operates a small cabinet shop called Wood It Is!, along with a private woodworking school that offers continuing education classes for University of Nevada-Las Vegas students.
"I've been telling all of my students about the upcoming AWFS/FS show, encouraging them to attend and possibly take a seminar or two, especially in the handcrafted furniture category. I've attended many of those classes in the past and the information has been very relevant to my work, both the business side, like the pricing seminar I attended, as well as the creative side, like Michael Fortune's wood bending seminar."
The conference will honor Rosanne Somerson, head of the Furniture Design Department at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., as the Furniture Society's Award of Distinction recipient for 2011. Past winners include Sam Maloof, James Krenov and Tage Frid.
The Furniture Society has approximately 1,000 members and about 300 attend its annual conferences. The 2012 conference will be held in Portland, Maine.
For information, call 828-255-1949 or visit www.furnituresociety.org.
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.