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Furniture Society celebrates its 20th anniversary

Great efforts paid off at The Furniture Society Conference, held June 23- 25 at the University of the Arts and the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia. Kathy Sharp, co-chairman of this year’s conference, says a lot of work went into recognizing the studio furniture makers group’s two decades of success.

“We really wanted the conference to be special,” Sharp says. “Wendell Castle was the featured speaker. We also heard presentations from the Award of Distinction winners, Ned Cooke and Thomas Hucker, and from presenter Bebe Johnson.”

Organizers were quite pleased with the turnout of about 275 attendees.

“We’ve had a lot more in the past,” Sharp says. “The Furniture Society was hit pretty badly in 2008 when the economy turned south. We lost a lot of members, but the membership has increased lately.”

The society currently has about 700 members.

This year’s conference theme was craft and fracturing, which focused on manufacturing in the handcraft business.

“The theme carried through there very well. One of the main reasons to go is because of the comradery and to catch up with old friends and talk about what machines they’re using, what finishes they’re using, and all of that. That’s always very encouraging for the members to able to be exposed to one another,” Sharp says.

In addition to the many workshops and panel presentations, the John Henry Challenge stood out. It was a contest between members using hand tools against a ShopBot CNC 4-axis carver.

“That one was a lot of fun,” Sharp says. “They had two hours to create and the hand-carvers won. It may have been a technicality due to something with the machine, but it was great fun.”

Attendees were also introduced to new executive director William Hinman, a certified fundraiser.

“It’s what we need,” Sharp says. “This has been a largely volunteer organization. We need the guidance of a professional who knows how to go out and find people to donate and support and we’ve had some very good support from [companies] like Powermatic, but we need to expand that and I think that’s what he is going to do for us.”

Sharp says the society is still deciding on whether it will hold a full conference or smaller symposium in 2017 and where it will be located.

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This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue.

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