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Furniture Society Conference returns

Registration is ongoing for The Furniture Society’s 2012 conference, “Design, Community & the Sublime,” which will convene June 14-16 at the Maine College of Art in Portland. The society currently has about 800 members from across the U.S. and Canada, all of whom have diverse artistic backgrounds, primarily in building furniture and working with wood. Nearly 400 members are expected to attend.

The Maine College of Art will host The Furniture Society's annual conference, with most programs held in the Porteous Mitchel & Braun building.

Conference chairman Kern Maass, coordinator of the industrial design program at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., says this year’s conference location has a lot to contribute to the society’s mission because it is steeply rooted in the values of the Shakers, boatbuilders and other professional woodworkers, along with their collaborative works with other artists and craftspeople in the area.

“We usually try to hold the conference in conjunction with an educational program and try to switch conference locations back and forth from coast to coast to provide interest to all members. What I think is great about Maine and this year’s conference is that this year’s theme is very much about community and, when I visited the campus, I could just sense it,” says Maass.

He adds that members are particularly excited about the upcoming event after having last year’s conference cancelled. It was going to be held in conjunction with the AWFS fair, but was called off by the society’s board of directors because of unjustifiable expenses, which included an anticipated low turnout. He says the board has worked with the host site to develop programs that will be as diverse as possible and will feature new workshops, presentations and demonstrations that will be fun and educational for everyone.

“I think that because [the Maine College of Art] offers so much between media that there will be lots of demonstrations going on from metals to woods programs. We’re also bringing back the surface design workshop, which we haven’t done, but we used to do regularly.”

Both The Furniture Society and the host college will present an exhibition of collaborative works called “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” It is designed to feature members’ work in all media by pairs or groups of artists at different points in their career, ranging from emerging to established artists through collaborative projects. The work will be presented from June 1-30 in conjunction with the conference at the Lewis Gallery at the Portland Public Library.

The Award of Distinction, an annual honor given to a selected artist during a special conference ceremony, will be given to Rosanne Somerson, head of the furniture design department at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

“Her outreach in the field as an educator and in her own work is extraordinary as to what she’s contributed to the field of furniture making,” says Maass. “I think that stands alone as to why she should be an Award of Distinction recipient.”

Contact: The Furniture Society, 111 Grovewood Road, Asheville, NC 28804. Tel: 828-255-1949.

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue.

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