Brian Boggs schedules classes for his North Carolina facility, which aims to be a training center for craftsmen
Chairmaker Brian Boggs has opened a woodworking school at his new studio in Asheville, N.C. For Boggs, who moved from his previous shop in Berea, Ky., in fall 2008, the school is the culmination of a plan hatched several years ago. The timing just needed to be right.
"Earlier, things were so busy, I needed a slowdown to make the move. The recession actually provided the opportunity," says Boggs.
As of December, five classes were scheduled for February through June (details can be found on www.brianboggschairs .com). But while he will teach his share of chairmaking classes, Boggs emphasizes that the school is a professional training center with a mission to help establish independent craftsmen.
"The school will be an integral part of my plan to grow my business into a network of craftsmen. I will teach anybody that is interested in my classes, but I am especially interested in finding students looking to join a growing network of independent craftsmen dedicated to producing impeccable furniture."
Boggs has been in woodworking for 26 years and has taught others the trade for most of his career. For more than 20 years, he's been teaching seminars and classes at various schools in the United States and abroad. A partial list includes the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, North Bennet Street School, Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking, Marc Adams School of Woodworking, West Dean College, The Northwest Woodworking Studio, Highland Hardware and Penland School of Crafts.
For the last 16 years, Boggs has also been a teacher and consultant for Greenwood (www.greenwoodglobal.org), designing products and training woodworkers in areas around rain forests in Central and South America. As much as he's enjoyed traveling, he says the time is right to focus his energy near home.
"I wanted to spend more time with friends and have more time to establish my Asheville location. I love living here and every time I leave to go teach somewhere I miss some event I wanted to attend, either for personal recreation or professional development."
In addition, Boggs wanted to teach in his own space so students can see how his shop is set up. A lot of the lessons he plans to teach need the support of unique shop setups he has personally developed. While the schools where he has taught are equipped with some of the best tools and machines available, they're simply not set up like his own chairmaking shop. In his shop, chair production will be going on in half of the building while he teaches in the other half.
"I also want to establish an apprenticeship program that will be part of the school. This is an idea I have been playing with for years and started offering that in Berea. Now that I have enough space to dedicate 2,000 square feet to just the school, I want to keep that space busy."
Boggs is offering classes that will take half of each month for the first half of the year. He says he will likely back off a little after that, as he wants to have at least one apprentice that attends the classes and stays on to make chairs. For this part of the production, he wants to bring back some of his earlier designs that were simpler and closer to the old-style greenwood. These will be sold as part of an apprentice line of furniture to be developed in the next few years.
"These earlier designs are easier and quicker to make than my newer ladderbacks and make a great place to begin for new chairmakers. I am thinking they will be slightly more rustic in finish and made in the true greenwood manner without glue. This will allow new craftsmen to get more experience quickly. It will also allow me to offer less expensive chairs to clients that can't afford my current work. As their skills improve, they can choose to set up their own shop or stick around to make chairs for my clients."
In Berea, Boggs had a great crew of craftsmen working with him and he liked the momentum they created in the business. Now that he's in Asheville, he wants that same momentum, but a different arrangement that includes independent craftsmen working in their own shops producing his chair designs as well as other compatible furniture.
"Ultimately, I want to offer an entire line of furniture, but I want my design and development focus to be with chairs. Other craftsmen joining the team will take up the task of designing the case goods."
Boggs is currently working with former students Matt Branyan and Michael Waldeck, as well as Russell Gayle, a recent graduate of the College of the Redwoods.
Brian Boggs Chairmakers Inc., 8 London Road, Asheville, NC 28803. Tel: 828-398-9701. www.brianboggschairs.com
This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue.