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‘An abundance of outstanding pieces’

The Furniture Society held its annual conference in June at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. About 400 attendees gathered to discuss the theme, "Fusions: Minds & Hands Shaping Our Future," with three days of seminars, demonstrations and networking opportunities. Attendees included studio furniture makers, designers, collectors, educators and curators.

Members had several opportunities to show their work at the conference.

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"The conference broadens everyone's understanding of things that are possible, and the great thing about it is that the conference is never the same for anyone," says Richard Oedel, this year's conference chairman and principal of Richard Oedel Fine Furniture Master in Boston.

Conference discussions focused on the positive physical aspects of studio furniture making. "Many people value the intellectual life of the mind, but very seldom do we pay attention to the importance of working with our hands," says Oedel.

The conference's panel presentations were well-received, particularly Jere Osgood's "Design: A Master's Approach" and a discussion on marketing tactics by members of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association, according to Oedel.

"In both cases, the place was packed. Osgood discussed his design methodology. It really was a wonderful opening into his mind, how he thinks about design and the pieces that he's building.

"He brings so much depth to his presentations and he has so much to say. It's one of those presentations that you can go to a dozen times and still get something new out of every single one."

Andy Pitts, a furniture maker in Heathsville, Va., says the members gallery was an exceptionally strong component of this year's conference. The non-juried exhibit allowed society members to showcase a piece of work.

"Due to the great efforts of the organizers, there were an abundance of outstanding pieces, all museum-quality in a strong venue located in the lobby of Kresge Auditorium. This exhibit seemed to bring in many folks from the MIT campus, not just the conference attendees, giving the work wide visibility," says Pitts.

Pitts says attending the conference is extremely important to his development as a studio furniture maker. "The outstanding content of the presentations as well as the regular association with other makers and lovers of fine furniture recharges me every summer."

Most attendees say that connecting with others and sharing ideas is the best part of every conference. One of those is Frank Burns, a Boston furniture maker.

"As always for me, the networking and community building was the highlight. Seeing exceptional work, speaking with the maker about their trials and tribulations - this is the energy for both my labor and my spirit. I come away humbled and exhilarated," says Burns.

Next year's conference will be held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the AWFS fair.

This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue.

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