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Exhibitors are optimistic in Providence

Eighty exhibitors crossed their fingers and hoped for the best at the 14th annual Fine Furnishings and Fine Craft Show, held Oct. 23-25 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I.

Providence exhibitor Carl Schlerman of Crimson Asphalt in Williamsburg, Mass.

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After a sluggish opening day, sales leads noticeably increased on the second day, according to several exhibitors. Overall, the displayed furniture seemed more creative than in year's past, which the makers attributed to having more downtime in their shops because of the recession.

Show director Karla Little of KL Communications described the quality of work as high, the booth layouts enticing and the new work to be a wonderful surprise for all.

"Many attendees commented on the ease of layout and size of the show in that it was easy to get around, not too overwhelming, and they could spend time with exhibitors whose work they were interested in and could go through the show more than once."

Robbi Staples, principal of Robbi Staples Furniture Maker in Dartmouth, Mass., and a veteran exhibitor in Providence, described this year's show as "promising."

"I'm starting to see positive signs in consumer confidence. If they think the economy is getting better, they start to spend. Things are starting to look brighter for us."

Gary Keener of Keener and Co. Furniture in New Carlisle, Ohio, is a regular exhibitor at all of the Fine Furnishings Shows. This year, he displayed an elegant booth layout with new designs such as an expandable dining table and a wine cabinet. His backlog has decreased and therefore he's gone from having five to two employees. Keener has made wise use of his downtime, creating new designs he didn't have time to work on when he was busy.

"I always have new ideas, but when I'm busy, there is no time to do the drawings and prototypes. Now I have time to generate new ideas," says Keener.

Tom Kuklinski, of Kuklinski Woodworking in Shelburne Falls, Mass., was a first-time exhibitor. He says things went well the first day with three definite purchase commitments. He decided to exhibit this year because his work had slowed down to a point where he felt it was worth the investment to re-establish his name. His work embraces an earthly and casually elegant look with live edges to accentuate the select hardwoods he uses.

Michael Hoy of Solon, Maine, has exhibited on and off for the last 10 years. He commented that he was having a great show, but that he would wait several more months to determine his success.

"I like to look for [attendees] who have bought from me in the past. That's really important to woodworkers like me because these people understand me from a personal level. The relationship with the customer starts after having handmade them a piece of work. When you're inside your shop under a pile of sawdust, you sometimes wonder why you're doing it. Seeing the customers is reassuring."

Show awards were presented in the following categories:

  • Traditional furniture: Jeff Lind Fine Woodworking, South Berwick, Maine
  • Contemporary furniture: AR Images, Willis, Texas
  • Traditional furniture, body of work: Kevin Mack Fine Furniture, Malden, Mass.
  • Contemporary furniture, body of work: Gloor Design, Peace Dale, R.I.
  • Traditional student work: Greg Brown, North Bennet Street School, Boston
  • Contemporary student work: Antonio Manaigo, Rhode Island School of Design
  • Marc Harrison Award for Marketing Excellence: Huston & Co., Kennebunkport, Maine

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.

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